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Full text of "Jules Engel oral history transcript"

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LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT 



Jules Engel 



Interviewed by Lawrence Weschler and Milton Zolotow 



Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 



Copyright ® 1985 
The Regents of the University of California 



COPYRIGHT LAW 



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United States Code) governs the making of photocopies 
or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under 
certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and 
archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other 
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that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used 
for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, 
or research. If a user makes a request for, or later 
uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in 
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copyright infringement. This institution reserves the 
right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its 
judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve 
violation of copyright law. 



RESTRICTIONS 



None . 



LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION 



This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to the 
University Library of the University of California, 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California, 
Los Angeles. 



LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT 

This interview is one of a series, entitled "Los 
Angeles Art Community: Group Portrait," funded by the 
National Endowment for the Humanities and conducted 
from July 1, 1975 to March 31, 1977 by the UCLA Oral 
History Program. The project was directed jointly by 
Page Ackerman, University Librarian, and Gerald 
Nordland, Director UCLA Art Galleries, and administered 
by Bernard Galm, Director, Oral History Program. After 
selection of interview candidates and interviewers, the 
Program assumed responsibility for the conduct of all 
interviews and their processing. 



CONTENTS 

Introduction viii 

Interview History xiii 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (December 29, 1975) 1 

Childhood in Budapest, Hungary--Arr ives in 
Evanston, Illinois, at age of 13--An affinity for 
nonf igurative des ign--Moves to Los Angeles-- 
Apprentice animator at Charles Mintz Studio-- 
Interest in movement and rhythm grows out of 
early exposure to ballet--Kandinsky exhibit--Work 
at Walt Disney Studios-- Fantasia — Professional 
conflicts — A lack of sympathy for experimentation 
at Disney. 

TAPE NUMBER:' I, Side Two (December 29, 1975) 25 

Recollections of Walt Disney--Disney as an 
instinctive entertainer--Limits of Disney's 
approach to animation--Work at the Air Force 
animation unit--Herb Klynn, an exceptional talent 
in graphic art3--United Productions of America 
(UPA) — More on the limits of Disney's approach to 
animation--Personalities are the merchandise of 
Hollywood . 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Video Session (January 23, 1976) 45 

Los Angeles' shortcomings as an art center — 
Comparisons with New York--More on work on 
Fantasia- -Discusses his drawings for Fantasia- - 
Rico Lebrun's work at Disney--Animators in the 
1950s--Exhibits of animators' paintings — The 
hard-edge geometrical style of Engel's 
paintings — A desire to translate qualities of 
simplicity and directness from painting into 
film — Film as a developing art form — More on work 
at UPA--An emphasis on flat, two-dimensional 
design at UPA — The UPA look influenced by 
contemporary painters — Raoul Dufy and the 
divorced line — The use of color as aspect of 
dramatic intent--Economy of gesture in UPA 
films — Robert Cannon, the greatest animator in 
the business. 



1 

I 



TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (May 19, 1976) 79 

On present position as chairman of film graphics 
department at California Institute of the Arts 
(Cal Arts) — Interrelationship of film and other 
art forms at Cal Arts — Early history of Cal Arts — 
Future trends in the arts--The live-action camera 
department at Cal Arts--Cal Arts as a reservoir 
of young talent--A positive working environment 
at Cal Arts. 

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (December 16, 1977) 105 

Viewing Engel's experimental animation films-- 
Train Landscape , a painterly approach to 
f ilmmaking--Engel ' s methods of conception and 
execution- -Accident — Shapes and Gesture s, the 
influence of dance- - Land scape , a color-field 
painting in time- -Wet Paint--Fragments . 

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (December 16, 1977) 121 

More on Fragments — Rumble- -Engel ' s working 
methods--v7orki ng through instincts rather than 
formulas- -Swan — The hazards of the computer film-- 
Three Arctic Flowers- -Engel ' s work with computer 
graph ics--Coaraze_, a live-action film--Use of 
still photography in Coaraze- - Coara2e wins Prix 
Vigo and numerous other awards--No commercial 
distributor opts to handle Coaraze . 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (December 22, 1977) 138 

Oskar Fischinger--Fischinger ' s isolation within 
the Disney Studios--Los Angeles avant-garde 
painters and animators in 1940s--Fischinger ' s 
last years at Disney--More on Engel's teaching at 
Cal Arts — Disney trustees and the founding of Cal 
Arts--The evolution and success of the Cal Arts 
animation program--Engel ' s teaching methods. 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (December 22, 1977) 163 

More on teaching at Cal Arts--Student interaction 
at Cal Arts--Teaching approaches--Kathy Rose, 
Dennis Pies, and Adam Beckett--On establishing 
rapport with students--Women in animation. 



VI 



TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (December 30, 1977) 191 

Preparation for work on live-action films — The 
Ivory Knife , capturing the environment of the 
painter Paul Jenkins--Colla'oorat ion with Irving 
Bazilon on film score--Interaction with Jenkins — 
The Torch and the Torso- -Working with Miguel 
Berrocal--Structural and thematic relations 
between drama and painting- -Mew York 100 , the 
work of John Hultberg — Light Motion — Max Bill- - 
Technical considerations in live-action film-- 
June Wayne and the Tamarind workshop--Engel ' s 
introduction to li thography--Working environment 
at Tamarind. 

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (December 30, 1977) 219 

More on June Wayne and Tamarind V7orkshop — The 
Look of a Lithographer- -Ken Tyler and Gemini 
Editions, Ltd. --Robert Rauschenberg , Jasper 
Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and Frank Stella work at 
Gemini--Cirrus Editions--Engel ' s lithographic 
work--Engel on the status of film as an art 
form--Is film a "medium of consequence"? 

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (February 16, 1978) 246 

Childhood interest in abstraction — Family 
background — First encounters with the work of 
Kandinsky — Engel's working methods--Connect ions 
between the mediums in which Engel works--Sngel ' s 
relations with dealers: Paul Kantor, Esther 
Robles, Felix Landau, and Irving Blum — More on 
limits of Los Angeles as an art center — 
Comparisons with New York. 

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two, (April 1, 1978) .....273 

More on interest in abstraction — The "Four 
Abstract Classicists" show at Los Angeles County 
Museum--A developmental survey of the phases of 
Engel's artistic career--Establishing depth with 
color — The straight line — Engel's love of urban 
life--Living and working in Los Angeles — 
Animation, painting, lithography, and film — 
Future directions for Engel — Future trends for 
young artists and filmmakers — The bankruptcy of 
magic realism. 

Index ........300 



VI 1 



« 



I 

I 



INTRODUCTION 



Jules Engel (born in Budapest, Hungary, 1913) came to 
the United States when he was thirteen years old. He began 
painting in a hard-edged geometrical style while a high 
school student in Evanston, Illinois. "I already had a 
very definite idea," Engel states in the following 
interview, "that, for me, going out and drawing landscapes 
or still lifes was not quite the idea what drawing or 
painting should be. Now, if you ask me where this idea 
comes from, I have no idea. But my feeling was then that 
if I would take an empty piece of paper and draw a line or 
two on it, even if I put a circle in a square on the paper, 
that that could be a drawing, and that could be enough. 
And that should be enough." (p. 7) 

Immediately after graduating from high school in 1937, 
Engel came to Los Angeles. He worked briefly for Charles 
Mintz Studios, then Engel apprenticed at Walt Disney 
Studios. The studio assigned him to work on Fantasia , and 
he choreographed the Chinese and Russian dance sequences 
for the Nutcra c ker Suite section of that film. In these 
two sequences, Engel innovated the use of black-background 
animation. He v/as then selected to do color continuity and 
color keying on Bambi. Engel, however, was not happy with 



VI 1 1 



what he considered the restrictive creative environment at 
Disney and left to join the armed services after the United 
States entered World War II. Engel spent the war years 
assigned to Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, making 
training and educational films for the Air Force Motion 
Picture Unit. 

After the war Engel went to work for the newly formed 
United Productions of America (UPA). He began as a 
designer but by 1950 he had become art director for all UPA 
productions. He teamed up with the late Robert Cannon to 
create Gerald McBoing-Boing , Madeline , Christopher Crumpet , 
and Jaywalker , plus a feature film "starring" UPA's Mister 
Magoo character. Engel and the other talents working at 
UPA changed the look of commercial animated filmmaking by 
adapting the artistic concepts of contemporary artists as 
varied as Dufy, Duchamps, Matisse, Kandinsky, and Klee. 

In 1959, Engel left UPA to open with Herb Klynn a 
commercial animation studio. Format Films. Engel produced 
and art directed the Academy Award-nominated film, Icarus 
Montgofier Wright (1960), from a script by Ray Bradbury. 
Engel then went to Paris in 1962 and directed The World of 
Sine , featuring the work of French cartoonist Sine; this 
film received France's "La Belle Qualite" award. 

The next film which Engel directed in Europe was 
Coroaze, made in the French town of Coroaze in 1965. 



IX 



I 

I 



p. Adams Sitney, writing on this film for Filmex, argues 
that this film is the "most impressive of [Engel's] 
nonanimated films . . . Coroaze utilizes high contrast 
black and white photography to outline the sculptural 
volume in Engel's view of the medieval townscape. Stills 
are freely incorporated in this film, at times in direct 
antithesis to the movement on the screen, but more often to 
indicate the ambiguity between the photograph and the 
filmed image of an empty street. In this carefully 
controlled optical universe the camera must seek out human 
activity to determine the status of its images. Engel's 
painterly eye dwells upon the tiled rooftops and the strong 
horizontals of the stone steps. By rapidly shifting the 
camera angles and recomposing these objects, he is able to 
draw 'graphic choreography' from them." ("American 
Independent Animation: Perspectives/ Jules Engel," The 1978 
Los Angeles International Film Exposition) Coroaze won the 
highest award given by French film critics, the Prix Jean Vigo. 

While living in France, Engel coproduced and 
codirected with Raymond Jerome the stage production of 
Antoine de Saint ExupSry's The Little Prince , which ran for 
several seasons in Paris, Rome, and Brussels. He also 
designed the sets for Le Jouex , an avant-garde play 
produced in Paris. 

Engel has made several films on artists and their 



work. In 1966, he directed a study of Spanish sculptor 
i4iguel Berrocal, The Torch and Torso . He directed a film 
for Tamarind Lithography Workshop, The Look of the 
Lithographer (1968). Other films on art and artists are 
American Sculpture of the Sixties (1968), New York 100 
(1967), and Max Bill (1976). 

Throughout a lengthy and successful career in both 
commercial and independent filmmaking, Engel has produced 
paintings, sculptures, drawings, and lithographs. He has 
had several one-man shows in Los Angeles, New York, and 
Europe. His art work is in the permanent collections of 
the Chicago Art Institute, the Hirshhorn Collection, the 
Rockefeller Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art in New 
York City. 

Engel he did not intensively explore his ideas for 
experimental films until the 1960s, and his most 
"painterly" films were made in the 1970s. In Landscape 
(1971), Accident (1973), Train Landscape (1973), Shapes and 
Gestures (1976), Rumble (1977), Fragments of Movement 
(1977), and Wet Paint (1977), Engel has created pure 
abstractions which explore the movement potentials of lines 
and masses, optical conflicts, color and depth illusions, 
color-field concepts, and the single line. Engel calls 
these films paintings in motion or "graphic 
choreography." In 1977, in the magazine New , Engel wrote 



XI 



that his emphasis in these films is "on the development of 
a visual dynamic language, independent of literature and 
theatrical traditions, demonstrating that pure graphic 
choreography is capable of its own wordless truth." 

Since 1969, Engel has been chairman of the Department 
of Animation/Experimental Film at the California Institute 
of the Arts. Engel in the following interview emphasizes 
the cross-fertilization that exists between painting and 
filmmaking in both his teaching and his creative work, but 
he says, "I have taken more from the painting world into 
the film that I've been doing, rather than the other way. . 
When we are talking animation, we have to realize that we're 
talking about painting in motion." (pp. 291-292) 



XI 1 



INTERVIEW HISTORY 



INTERVIEWERS: 

Tapes I-III, Milton Zolotow, graphic designer; Tapes 
IV-VII, Lawrence Weschler, assistant editor, UCLA Oral 
History Program, B.A., Philosophy and Cultural History, 
University of California, Santa Cruz. 

TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW: 

Places ; Engel's home in Beverly Hills; Engel's 
studio/office at the California Institute of the Arts in 
Valencia, California; and the Charles Aidikoff Screening 
Room in Beverly Hills. 

Dates : December 29, 1975; January 23, May 19, 1976; 
December 16, 22, 30, 1977; February 16 and April 1, 1978. 

Length of sessions and total number of recording hours : 
Interview sessions were conducted at various times of 
day. They averaged between forty-five and ninety 
minutes. A total of approximately nine hours of 
conversation was recorded. 

Persons present during the interview : Tapes I-III, Engel 
and Zolotow; Tapes IV-VII, Engel and Weschler. 

CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW: 

There was a one and a half year gap between the work of 
the original interviewer, Milton Zolotow, and that of the 
interviewer for the final four tapes, Lawrence Weschler. 

Zolotow's approach was chronological and followed the 
course of Engel's life and work as an artist. Weschler 
began his sessions by viewing some of Engel's experimental 
films and having Engel discuss them. Further sessions 
focused on themes which explored in depth the range of 
Engel's creative activities. In several instances Engel 
returned to topics previously discussed with Zolotow, in 
particular Engel's interest in abstract art, his years at 
Disney Studios and UPA, and his present teaching position 
at Cal Arts. 

EDITING: 

Lawrence Weschler edited the entire interview. He checked 
the verbatim transcript of the interview against the 



Xlll 



original tape recordings and edited for spelling, 
punctuation, paragraphing, and verified spelling of proper 
nouns. Words and phrases inserted for clarity by the 
editor have been bracketed. 

Engel reviewed and approved the edited transcript. He 
made no changes or deletions in the manuscript. 

Richard Candida Smith, principal editor, wrote the 
introduction. George Hodak, editorial assistant, prepared 
the index and the table of contents. 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS: 

The original tape recordings of the interview are in the 
university archives and are available under the 
regulations governing the use of permanent noncurrent 
records of the university. Records relating to the 
interview are located in the office of the UCLA Oral 
History Program. . .. 



XIV 



TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE 
DECEMBER 29, 1975 

ZOLOTOW: Now, one of the first things they [UCLA Oral 
History Program] were interested in establishing is v/here 
you came from, how you got here. Where 'd you come from? 
[laughter] 

ENGEL: Where 'd I come from? I was born in Budapest, 
Hungary, and I came to this country as a citizen, because 
my mother was already here for some time. So as I said, 
when I came over, I came over as an American citizen, 
because she was already a citizen. 
ZOLOTOW: How old were you? 

ENGEL: I think about thirteen. I landed in Evanston, 
Illinois, which was a lucky thing for me, because it's a 
lovely place, and the people were very kind to me. They 
really looked after me in anything and everything. They 
made sure that my presence was comfortable. Naturally, I 
spoke not a word of English, so I attended some night 
school. But I was also able to enter a high school in 
Evanston. I guess I already was showing some signs of 
drawing talent, but they wanted me also because I showed 
promise in athletics. I became one of their star athletes. 
ZOLOTOW: What sports were you interested in? 
ENGEL: Track. I'd run anything from the 400 up. 
ZOLOTOW: Still run? 



ENGEL: No, no, no. I don't like to run for fun. No, 
let me take that back. For me, it's competition; that 
was good. But the running aspect of it, the whole athletic 
aspect of it for me, was a natural thing; it was just part 
of my body, my body rhythm. And I was pretty damn good 
at it, I guess, because I was the track captain, and I 
broke, oh, about a dozen high school records. But to me, 
the good thing was that I enjoyed it. Your body can 
function like an animal. In other words, you have your 
head and your body, and running, jumping, and all, that was 
where the body was in motion. To me that was a very good 
thing. So I guess because of that and the drawing, the 
people at Evans ton were really very, very beautiful, and, 
really, I think I was lucky to land there because of the 
care that they showed toward me. 
ZOLOTOW: Then where ' d you go? 

ENGEL: Then from there I took off to Hollywood. 
ZOLOTOW: Direct? 

ENGEL: Yes. I just got on a bus and I came out here. I 
only knew one person out here, because I met somebody back 
in Chicago who gave me the address. Of course, the whole 
thing is a little vague now. But what happened was that 
I landed out here and I went to see this one person, and 
there wasn't much there; but then he recommended me to go 
see somebody at the Chamber of Commerce of Hollywood. I 



saw this other man, and he said to me, "You know, you're 
a very nice chap. I'll tell you what I'll do for you. 
I'll give you the money that it would take for you to get 
back to Evanston, Illinois. You should go back. You are 
a nice fellow, and I really want to help you. Why don't 
you go back?" [laughter] 

ZOLOTOW: He didn't want to wish Hollywood on you, huh? 
ENGEL : And so that was my big contact. 
ZOLOTOW: How old were you, Jules? 

ENGEL: I was seventeen. And then I had an introduction to 
an artist; I think I got that from a high school teacher of 
mine. I had the address, so after this man at the Chamber 
of Commerce had given me the money to go back home to 
Evanston, I then decided to look up this artist. And 
that was something that bugged me already then, because 
the word artist--I had no idea what the hell I'm going to 
get into. 

I was near the place that this man was living. He 
was living, as I remember, near Hollywood and Highland, 
somewhere there. I saw a man on a corner painting a land- 
scape. He kept holding the pencil up in one hand, you know, 
looking through for perspective or something. 

And I said, "Oh, no, shit — if that's the guy, oh boy, 
I'm already in bad shape." Because at that time already I 
had ideas, and I thought, "No, my God, if that's him — " 



Anyway, I had no choice. I had to go to his apartment. 
Well, it wasn't him--it was another man, luckily, but he 
was also a strange one. He painted landscapes of Arizona, 
and then he would go up there. He painted the landscapes 
here, and then he would go up to Arizona and sell them there. 
He did extremely well. Now, he was the guy who knew somebody 
at the Charles Mintz Studio. 
ZOLOTOW: Do you remember his name? 

ENGEL: I think his name was [Ken] Strobel. He painted 
landscapes of Arizona. He knew somebody at the Charles Mintz 
Studio. He recommended me there, because I had no way of 
making a living, really. I was very good at doing pen-and- 
ink drawings at that time. 

ZOLOTOW: Had you had any training, at this point? 
ENGEL: I had very little at the high school. I had like 
four years of art school. I went to Evans ton Academy. 
(Evanston had a kind of art school called Evanston Academy 
of Fine Art.) As a high school student, I would go there 
evenings and draw, m.ostly designs and that sort of thing. 
They would set up the material for a still life and so forth. 
ZOLOTOW: Were any of the original teachers any good? 
ENGEL: Well, I don't recall that I had too many teachers, 
really. I mean that person there set up the still life, and 
I would draw from it. 

But now I have to get around to a certain point. I 



have to be very specific here. To get back to Strobel, he 
knew somebody at the Charles Mintz Studio, so he introduced 
me. But the thing that he asked me was, he would give me 
some photographs of the desert scene, and I would then draw 
pen-and-ink drawings of that, as I was very good at pen-and- 
ink, as I said. So I would be there six o'clock in the 
morning, and I would draw these pen-and-ink drawings of 
landscapes for him until eight. 
ZOLOTOW: Did he sign them? 

ENGEL: [laughter] You're ahead of me. I did about a dozen. 
I went there for months and months and months in the morning. 
A year or two later, I don't know how I picked up a magazine, 
Arizona magazine, but, by God, there were my pen-and-ink 
drawings, and he signed them. Of course, it was a kind of 
a compliment to me, because this was a mature painter, a very 
"fine painter" with a big studio here, and yet my pen-and- 
ink drawings were good enough for him to sign them. Then I 
find out later that he also colored some--you know, put 
color over the prints. I was not angry at the man, because 
he did introduce me to the Charles Mintz Studio, which gave 
me the first job. So in a sense, I felt that he did me a 
favor, and I did him a favor, although I wish to hell I had 
those drawings now. Just the reproduction, just to prove 
the point. He was a kind of real wheeler-dealer. He never 
paid for anything. 



ZOLOTOW: Well, maybe we can track the drawing down. What 

magazine were they in? 

ENGEL: I think it's called Arizona . 

ZOLOTOW: Okay, well, maybe we can get some researchers to 

work on it and see if we can track them down. 

ENGEL: I remember definitely I saw one of these drawings 

in a magazine with his name under it. Oh, what the hell, 

it ' s long ago. 

ZOLOTOW: What'd you do for Charles Mintz when you started 

there? 

ENGEL: Well, you could only do one thing entering that 

animation studio, and that was to join as an apprentice. I 

was apprentice animator, what they call an "in-betweener . " 

Aside from that, I used to take a lot of layout drawings; 

then I would go over them with my lines to get it ready for 

the background department to paint. I had a kind of a nice 

line that they liked, so I would take some very rough drawings, 

go over them, and trace them for background. The big thing 

as apprentice, "in-betweener," was that you're going toward 

animation. 

But you asked me something which is very important--if 
at that time when I was going to Academy of Fine Arts in 
Evanston, if I had teachers of consequence. Well, now, you 
see, this is the very strange thing that I have to explain. 
It might sound as if I am not telling the truth, but this is 



the truth. When I was in high school, I already had a 

very definite idea that, for me, going out and drawing 

landscapes or still lifes was not quite the idea what 

drawing or painting should be. Now, if you ask me where 

this idea comes from, I have no idea. But my feeling was 

then that if I would take an empty piece of paper and draw 

a line or two on it, even if I put a circle in a square on 

the paper, that that could be a drawing, and that could be 

a piece of art. And that should be enough. 

ZOLOTOW: Was there anyone that encouraged you in this? 

ENGEL : No, nobody encouraged me, because at that time I'd 

never even seen anything like it. I never saw anything 

except-- Because when you grow up in Budapest, and you go 

to museums on Sundays , you go and see the Rubens and 

Rembrandts and Titians . But my point of view was already 

that there must be more to painting and drawing than just 

what I have seen. In other words, that you should be able 

to just put anything on a piece of paper of your own invention, 

imagination, and that should be art. 

And the strange thing is that in high school, because 
I already had a very large presence as a draftsman, or drawer, 
my high school teacher, somehow — And I don't think she really 
knew much about things, but I remember that the class would 
go out in the field to draw the trees, and she said, "No, you 
can stay in the room, and you do what you want to do." I 



still don't understand why she would let that happen, but 
I remember everybody had to go. And I would stay in the 
room and draw my circles and squares and lines. She went 
along with that, and yet I don't think she knew what the 
hell I was doing, because I was doing things out of my 
head. So this is how I began. I wanted to make this point, 
since at that early time, the basic concept of what my art 
would be was already there. 

ZOLOTOW: Can you trace back and place where you were 
exposed to nonf igurative art? 

ENGEL: No. I told you there was no such thing. This is 
why, when people say that you have to have those other 
ingredients, I have to get back to myself and say, "It's 
not so." I say, "At that age, I had these concepts, and 
I made those drawings in high school." I remember when we 
had to do portfolios and put covers on them and make the 
designs, I was always drawing squares and triangles and 
stuff like that, filling up the space. I felt that that 
was already an expression, and that should be art. 

Now if I were to go back, I have to go back to certain 
experiences which at that time were strange. I remember 
when I saw-- I was in an artist's studio once, and I was 
about twelve, eleven, maybe twelve, thirteen, very little. 
That man was painting, and he was an artist. How I got 
there, I don't know. But I remember he had a big picture 



on his wall. It had kind of like a kitchen, and three dogs 
were chasing; and one dog was on the top of the stairs, one 
was in the middle, and one was already on the landing. What 
fascinated me, already then, was not the dogs but the fact 
that there was all that space underneath the dogs. And that 
fascinated me. That space underneath the dogs. Not the dogs. 
The space. (And it had some lines.) Now, this was the first 
time, as I think back, that I said to myself, "That's inter- 
esting." At that time, I was aware of that and it captivated 
me . 

Another thing I was aware of when I saw the Rubens and the 
Rembrandts and Titians was, you had a head which was enormously 
well painted, and you would have a hand which was well painted, 
but then you had a whole section of the canvas where you saw 
the brushwork. That brushwork fascinated me to the point where 
I said, "I like that better than the head. I see the canvas 
coming through and the rough feeling of the brush stroke. If 
I could frame it, for me, that's a painting." 

I can make one more point, which to me is more interesting 
today than it was then. I was never aware of cars, of auto- 
mobiles. I couldn't tell one car from another. I'm pretty 
good at that now. But I remember (I was again around that age) 
I came around a corner with my friends, and I saw a car which 
stopped me cold. For the first time, I noticed a car. I 
noticed a car, and it really was an experience. What grabbed me 



was the front of the car, the enormous simplicity. Again, 
as I say, at that early time, I asked my friends what it 
was. And that's the first time that I ever wanted to know 
what a car was. It v;as simply that I liked the front. It 
had the kind of a structure that I reacted to. And what the 
hell do you think it was? It was a Rolls-Royce. But the 
Rolls-Royce front had that classical shape. Later in time, I 
realized these things — that there was a gut reaction you can't 
explain. But why did I react to that shape? I never cared 
for a car, and I never looked at a car. When I saw that, I 
said to myself, "My God, that is something." 

So somehow — I come to a very early point here, or 
conclusion--I reacted because I had to. Sometimes you do 
in life what you have to do 1 In other words, all these things 
later were very obvious, and you see I_ had no choice . 

Now, this idea of having no choice is present in a lot of 
people. I remember listening to Jacques Tati a couple of 
years ago, and I asked him why he makes comedy. Tati 
simply answered, "I have no choice." 

Now, I have heard that from other people, and sometimes 
that no choice comes very early. But the fact that I saw 
that Rolls-Royce and that structure; saw the dogs and the 
space underneath the dogs; saw the Rubens, the Rembrandts, 
the Titians, and those large areas in the canvas where you 
just see texture — I was drawn to all that at a very early 
time. But I never studied abstract paintings when all 

10 



these things were happening, but already my thinking 
was coinciding with those things. And yet they were 
not abstractions — they were part of a painting, or part 
of an object that I had an immediate simpatico with. So 
I know it might sound silly, what I'm saying now, but 
this is the way that all my work is started. 

ZOLOTOW: When you got into film, did you feel a contradic- 
tion between what film was asking you to do and your own 
impulse to create the forms that you were interested in? 
ENGEL: Well, no. At first, when I got in there, I didn't 
worry about that, because it gave me the first opportunity 
to be in a professional environment, an environment where 
things can happen. I wanted to get in there. I didn't 
care how I'd get in there just as long as I got in there. 
And then what was going to happen later, of course, I could 
do something about. But, you see, my first big impact of 
the world of the arts, in my gut, was when I saw the Ballet 
Russe de Monte Carlo. Then I saw, for the first time, music, 
movement, dancing, painting--all those things combined. So 
that was the thing that propelled me to get into an environ- 
ment where I could function on all those levels. 
ZOLOTOW: You're decribing two forces, then: the inner 
force toward a certain formalism, then this external force, 
the richness of full drama-art. Both these were working 
on you. 



11 



ENGEL : But that was the biggest impression on me as a 
young person; because there, for the first time, I saw 
the direction I might want to involve myself in. The 
sense of movement always interested me--I mean, the 
sense of movement as in dancing. That from the first 
always interested me, and it was already part of me. 
But again, you see, in the dancer's movement you have 
enormous simplicity . You have structure, but you have 
the simplicity, because you can't lie with movement. 
When you move, you don't lie. You have no choice. When 
you make with the words, you can say things that somebody 
else will come and say, "No, he means that." 
ZOLOTOW: What do you mean, Jules? Aren't there phony 
dancers? 

ENGEL: I'm not talking about phony dancers. I'm talking 
about, for instance, athletes and the Martha Grahams and 
the Ballet Russe. I mean, when a man runs, he runs, and 
that's all there is to it. When a man jumps for a ball, 
and he wants to put it into a basket, he jumps. And no 
one can come up and explain, now, well, he meant this or 
that. And you're going to say something, and five other 
people will interpret what you're saying. But if I run a 
100-yard dash, no one can interpret this: I am either 
going to get there before you do, or you are going to get 
there before I do . So in that area of movement, you can 



12 



have this enormous simplicity and directness. It is a 
kind of total expression. And in my work, my early 
thinking was that when you got to a line, it's a kind 
of statement with enormous simplicity. 

Where these things came from, you see, is what we're 
talking about here. Where it came from, it came from 
my gut, and from no place else. And this is why often, 
when people say you need this and this and that to 
arrive to this thing, I don't think so. Because my 
whole experience in my life has always been against 
that. In other words, when I had a concept-- 

I remember in high school, they were putting on a 
stage performance. I was very much involved in that scene. 
And I recommended not to use anything as a set, just to 
use a bench, a table, and a chair. They looked at me 
like I was out of my mind. But then, five or ten years 
later they were doing Our Town , where they did nothing 
but use a chair or a table. But where the hell did this 
come from? I don't know where the hell it came from. 
All I can tell you is that these things are possible, 
that it can come from a person without his ever being 
exposed to anything of that sort. 

ZOLOTOW: It seemed to arise simultaneously in a lot of 
people at the same time. 
ENGEL: That happens. But I wanted to just make this 



13 



point — and this is kind of a large statement — that if 
pure nonobjective art had never existed before my present, 
it would have arrived because I would have been doing it. 
Of course, people have a lot of art school, and then they 
have all the teachers, and they're exposed to a lot of 
things--but that's something else. But when you arrived 
at those things and you've never been exposed to anything 
like that and you just do it, well, that is something else, 
And maybe that's why, when I am looking at nonobjective 
work, I often feel that the stuff is not right, because it 
doesn't — not that it doesn't really come from the gut, the 
heart, but the person has no feel for it. If you have a 
feel for it, it should be as natural on the canvas as when 
Cezanne put an apple on the canvas. 

ZOLOTOW: And yet when you got into film, you didn't feel 
unnatural doing representational images. 

ENGEL: No, never, because then I was in another terrain, 
and I had to go along with that aspect of it. Let's say 
at the Charles Mintz-- Although the Charles Mintz studio 
experience for me was a disaster because of the people's 
lack of sensitivity of what the world was doing, I 
realized then that there was nothing I can do about that, 
because I'm a young fellow, I'm a beginner and I'd better 
keep my mouth shut. Which I believe at certain times is 
what you're supposed to do. But the whole place was 



14 



very anti-intellectual, anti-sensitive to art, anti-art, 
anti-culture. I mean, people were doing that because it 
was a job, but not with passion, not with tenderness. 
ZOLOTOW : Do you remember the year that this was? 
ENGEL: Well, it had to be '38 and '39, see. But by that 
time, around that time, I was exposed for the first time to • 
comtemporary art. I think the first one that I saw was 
here in Los Angeles, either a book or something that I saw, 
a Kandinsky. And POW! That opened the whole vista. And 
also what was interesting about it, that I, all of a sudden, 
felt that I wasn't alone. Because before I always felt 
that I was alone. 

I made little sketches, and I showed them to my friends. 
I remember I showed it to a friend of mine--my first non- 
objective little drawings and stuff. He was a very good 
commercial artist; and he looked at the drawings and he 
said, "What the shit are you doing, Jules? What are you 
wasting your time for? What is this crap you're doing?" 

Well, all I could do, I just put the goddamn thing 
together, the little package, and we went to a party, and 
the next day I went back to my goddamned little 
abstractions. In other words, it could have destroyed me, 
but it didn't. It didn't bother me that he didn't like it, 
or that he reacted the way he did. It didn't really mean 
a damn thing. I just kept doing what felt right for me. 



15 



In the studio, however, that was something else; that 

was a job. But still I was involved in getting closer 

to things that I wanted to get closer to. The only way 

to get closer to this desire was for a while to work 

with people whether I liked them or not. 

ZOLOTOW: What images were you drawing for Charles iMintz? 

What were they--? ' . • ■ 

ENGEL: Oh, Jesus--! can't remember. But those were 

horrible things. I mean, they were just awful things. 

But as I say, when you start, you don't complain. It gives 

you, as you know, the opportunity to work and get experience, 

and that was important. The environment was bad because 

the people there were absolutely against anything that was 

refined or sensitive. In fact, I remember a couple of times, 

they knocked me a little bit. In other words, you were a 

kind of an "egghead," and "intellectual," a "snob," and all 

that kind of thing. So you kept your mouth shut and you 

worked. 

But already, by that time, I was in touch with a 
couple of people that were working with Disney on Fantasia . 
In fact, I saw a wonderful photo in a Vogue of those 
dandelions coming down, so I gave that to a friend of mine 
over at Disney, because they were already working on the 
Nutcracker , the whole suite. I gave him that piece of 
photo and I said, "Why don't you take it there and show him 



16 



that--this could be like the ballerinas. You know, use 
those shapes." That's what happened. They used those 
shapes in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker , at the beginning, 
and then they recommended-- Because by that time, I was 
doing a lot of drawings--as I say, I was already a ballet 
freak--of dancers in movement, just line, you know. They 
showed it at Disney to somebody. At that time they were 
working on the Nutcracker , and they had a lot of problems 
with the "Chinese Dance," the "Russian Dance," the "Arabian 
Dance." So the next thing I know, I was called for an 
interview at Disney, and I was hired as a consultant chore- 
ographer, put immediately on the "Chinese Dance" and the 
"Russian Dance," to do the choreography. 
ZOLOTOW: Did you have musical training at all? 
ENGEL: No, I didn't have musical training, but my mother 
was a pianist. It was something that was around me, all 
the time. And a lot of the theater was around me, a lot 
of theater--not so much movies. And because I had this 
experience at Charles Mintz, so I knew how to put up a 
continuity sketch, you know, for the choreography. 

Now, the problem at Disney was that the word choreog - 
raphy got in the way. They didn't know what the hell it 
meant. But it didn't matter, because I had these drawings, 
and they put me in a unit. Now, the problem with the unit 
was that no one had seen ballet before and no one went to 



17 



the theater--! 'm not going to mention names. 
ZOLOTOW: Mention names. Mention names! 

ENGEL: Well, Norm Wright was the story unit director of 
this sequence, and Norm Wright, at that time, I don't think 
he had ever seen a ballet. I don't think he ever saw a 
play. And there was a couple of other people: they could 
draw well, but they were not into that scene. They never 
heard of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Ted Shawn, or any 
of that world. And, of course, the Kandinsky stuff or a 
Paul Klee idea of art was definitely taboo. But here they 
were working on [the] "Chinese Dance," and none of them had 
been exposed to any of that stuff. So again I come into the 
place like an egghead. And I began to make continuity 
sketches for the "Chinese Dance," the choreography, and 
then of course the "Russian Dance." 

And that started a big battle, between me and the other 
people in the unit, because for one thing, I was pushing for 
the black, total black environment, just black. Of course, 
that was unheard of there. 

"What do you mean, just black? We've gotta have some- 
thing back there. We gotta have the bottom of a tree, or 
grass" or some crap." 

And I said, "No, no, just pure black, just pure black 
with characters moving, choreographies being done on the 
board. And nothing, not even the source of light--you see 



18 



the light at the bottom, but not as a source of light." 

Now, this thing, this enormous simplicity, was 
staggering there, because they wanted to go with what they 
called "production"--f ill up the place, you know, lots of 
stuff on the screen. Now, I had a lot of fights there, a 
lot of fights. Also they wanted to do like a Goldwyn. 
They wanted to have down shots, kind of like those follies 
girls with the down shots-- 
ZOLOTOW: Busby Berkeley. 
ENGEL: Busby Berkeley. 

ZOLOTOW : They wanted the Busby Berkeley choreography. 
ENGEL: But I'd already seen the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; 
I saw the "Chinese Dance" in the Nutcracker Suite there, 
and I had all that in my gut already. And now comes again 
the simplicity, the pure black and just the shapes. I didn't 
design the shapes (the shapes were already designed) , but the 
way they were going to move, I did all that. So we ended 
up — with both of those, the "Russian Dance" and the "Chinese 
Dance," we ended up on black. But the reason we ended up 
on black, I think, was because at that time the budget was 
so depleted, that that was the cheapest way of going. Now, 
the strange thing is that today, in Fantasia , whenever they 
run it, they always talk about the "Chinese Dance" and 
the "Russian Dance" — it looks like it was done today. 
At that time I had to [fight] them into not getting a 



19 



Me tro-Goldwyn [-Mayer ] musical thing in there, not getting 

all that crap in the background — just to go with this 

enormous simplicity. 

ZOLOTOW: That was probably one of the first times that an 

idea from modern painting and modern art got introduced 

in animation. 

ENGEL : So, you see, with all those things in the bag, here 

I had the opportunity for the first time to put those 

things into motion. But I had an awful lot of fights and 

some very bad times with my people around me. All I wanted 

to do was just put something on there which I felt was right-- 

there was nothing for me to get back. In fact, I didn't 

even get credit on Fantasia because I was working in this 

particular area. And then when I wanted choreography credit, 

I remember, the guy said, "What do you mean? What does it 

mean, 'choreography'?" So forget it. So the fellow who 

animated the "Chinese Dance" — Art Babbit did the animation-- 

now, whenever you mention that, it's interesting, because 

it'sArt Babbit. But the concept, the continuity — that 

had nothing to do with him. The animator comes in when 

the aesthetics are solved. 

ZOLOTOW: Was there anybody at Disney who was interested 

in what we call art, painting? 

ENGEL: Well, they were all painting; they were all painting. 

But the painting then had the presence of what you call 



20 



then the West Coast watercolor — Barse Miller, Millard 
Sheets, and Phil Dike, [who] was the man who hired me. 
ZOLOTOW: Phil Dike was working there? 
ENGEL: He hired me. He was the man who hired me on 
this job after seeing those drawings. So that was the 
texture of the art scene. 

ZOLOTOW: Paris didn't exist? Picasso didn't exist? 
ENGEL: Well, we used Stravinsky, you know, and all that. 
Or Beethoven. But then it was almost as if you were going 
to put them on the map, you know. Or I remember, I was 
going into a story meeting and they told me, "Don't use 
the word abstract because you're going to have people look 
at you like you're a strange character." 

In fact, I had drawings--! ' 11 show you some drawings-- 
I had drawings on the story board, and the guys used to 
take them off the story board when Walt and his entourage 
came into the room because they felt that this kind of a 
drawing might look strange. You see, my approach to use 
colors then was like that. 
ZOLOTOW: What years were these? 

ENGEL: This is '39, '39-40. Now, you see, this was not 
the kind of color approach to doing things over there. I 
was doing things like that then. 

ZOLOTOW: We'll recapitulate this on videotape, so we can 
see that. 



21 



ENGEL: This was wild for then. So what happened — 
No, at the time we were finishing Fantasia , Tom Codrick, 
who was art director on Bambi , one day stopped me in the 
hall, and he said, "I like this kind of a way you use color. 
I would like you to do something on Bambi , but to use color 
like you do. 

So that was the one nice thing that happened there, 
that this fellow saw this and he said, "I want you to use 
colors like this." But while I was working on colors like 
that on Fantasia , I had a lot of fights and a lot of problems. 
But these were drawings that were yanked off the board-- 
You see, just black. It has this kind of enormous vitality. 
ZOLOTOW: In those years, the difference between commercial 
artists and art-artists was so aggravated-- 
ENGEL: Oh, yes. Because you were either an egghead, a 
queer, a snob--all kinds of strange tags were put on you, 
you know. I think there were some people there who would 
have a Cezanne in a room, maybe. But then Cezanne was 
already, for a lot of people, very weird. So when you come 
to something like Kandinsky-- 
ZOLOTOW: Did Walt ever collect art? 

ENGEL: No, I don't think he collected art, although he 
bought something of mine. I don't know whether he has it 
or not; I know he bought something from me--I think they 
had a sale. You see, you can't just say Walt, because that 



22 



would be unfair, because at least Walt had what I consider 
a tremendous sense of integrity to himself. But he was 
surrounded by people who fostered that, because none of 
them had the guts ever to comment or buck him. So he had 
a lot of people around him who were constantly yessing him, 
and they had even less than Walt. That's not fair. They 
had less than Walt, because at least Walt had a sense of 
integrity to himself. I might not agree with him, but he 
believed really what he was doing, whereas these other guys 
were just there for the ride. They would go along with him, 
but he was the total talent, and all these other people 
were just working out his fantasies. 

I remember at one session, on Bambi , I recommended 
something, and Walt didn't care for it. But then when the 
meeting was over, I remember one of the guys came over and 
he said, "Jules, you know, I like your ideas. That's good 
stuff." 

I said, "You son of a bitch, if you like my idea, then 
why didn't you speak up?" 

Well, we were in a meeting, so, you see, they wouldn't. 
ZOLOTOW: Who hired Rico Lebrun to work on Bambi ? 
ENGEL: I don't know who hired him. I really don't know. 
But, you see, Rico was teaching the animators--and I don't 
think they liked this idea--how to draw the animal. Because 
if you see the deers in Snow White and you see the deer 



23 



drawings in Bambi, you can see an enormous difference of 
drawing talent, of structure, because Rico was teaching 
them from the inside out, you know. He had the classes, 
and you can see. Then also they had a couple of people 
like [Bernard] Garbutt, who was an animal artist, not a 
cartoonis t--an animal artist who did fantastic drawings 
of the deer. He could draw like you write your name. 
But Lebrun was an enormous influence. And also there 
are beautiful books there, those big books with drawings 
of the skeleton of the deer in every position that you 
can think of. In fact, I have some someplace around here, 
ZOLOTOW : Why don't we remember these for the videotape. 
I'm going to make some notes, because I would like people 
to know about the existence of those drawings. 



24 



TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO 
DECEMBER 29, 1975 

ZOLOTOW: So the only painters that worked on Fantasia 
and the only painters that worked at Disney before Bambi 
were really the traditional California school of conser- 
vative watercolorists? 

ENGEL: Yes, with the exception of one man, Kai Nielsen, 
who's a wonderful illustrator, a classical illustrator 
from Sweden. Nielsen did the story board on Night on Bald 
Mountain . Now, when you see the material on Bald Mountain , 
in Fantasia , when you see the dancing of these characters, 
you can see these drawings. I mean, it's completely out 
of character with everything else, as far as Beethoven. But 
again, he was a classical illustrator. In fact, when Tom 
Codrick first showed me some footage on Bambi and showed 
me a tremendous amount of color stuff already, paintings, 
you know, after he asked me to do something with color, I 
said, "Well, you know, the problem--and you probably know 
it--I feel very silly, because I can't paint like this, 
because that approach in using color is like an illustrator, 
instead of using colors dramatically. Forget the aspect 
of a book illustration, but use color as you would use 
words in a theater." So the whole idea which I will come 
back to later, when we talk about UFA [United Productions 
of America] was, don't paint backgrounds, but make the color 

25 



part of the dramatic intent. My ideas was, don't put the 
character in front of the background, but put the character 
in the background. That's another scene. 

ZOLOTOW: Let's finish with the years at Disney. When did 
you leave Disney? 

ENGEL: Well, I left Disney around, about '42 and then went 
into the Air Force, 

ZOLOTOW: Up to that point, nobody from the world of painting 
had ever affected the Disney people in any way? 
ENGEL: You couldn't because, Walt had a point of view, and 
that point of view, for him, was all right. But that point of 
view of course was Walt's feeling about what he wanted. Walt 
was a tremendous talent. He had the instinct of an entertainer. 
He had an instinct of a director. And he directed every damn 
thing that came out of that place while he was there. He 
looked at the rushes, he looked at the rough reels, and Walt 
said yes or no. There's no question about it. He was an 
entertainer, but the kind of entertainer that was right for 
him. In that sense, he was 100 percent. And he would not 
deviate from it. He had a feel for that. I remember we were 
in a session on the "Dance of Hours," of the ostriches, and 
we were in a sweatbox, looking at a rough reel, at the early 
part, when the ostriches were beginning to wake up. Walt 
looked at the damn thing, and he said, when somebody wakes up, 
then that person goes [Engel gestures] like that, you 



26 



know. And you say now, that was right, for him, to spot 

that. So he had that natural instinct of performance, 

like a lot of directors--like [D.W.] Griffith. I mean, 

what the hell, Griffith became a great director, yet he 

was a lousy actor. He was such a lousy actor they kicked 

him out of the studio. 

ZOLOTOW: As you talk, you're moving a lot like an animator, 

which is really interesting. Do you think that this is 

part of what Walt gave you, that you took on with you to 

use in other places? 

ENGEL: No, no, no--no way. No way. I think that aspect 

of me using my hands, [laughter] I think that's European. 

ZOLOTOW: That's Hungarian. 

ENGEL: I think that's European. No, I didn't get anything 

like that. 

ZOLOTOW: You know, that particular gesture that you went 

through when you were imitating Walt-- 

ENGEL: I was imitating him. 

ZOLOTOW: That's a very animatory thing to do. 

ENGEL: But he had that feeling, you know, of what was right, 

what felt good, how a person would react. He had all that. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, did you get some of that stuff out of those 

meetings? 

ENGEL: No, because if I knew what he was doing and why, 

then I already knew the stuff. This is obvious. I know I'm 



27 



going to sound goddamned conceited, but I had all those 
feelings. In other words, I brought a lot to that place, 
in a lot of those areas. But for me, it was all just 
part of me, since I'd seen an awful lot of ballet and an 
awful lot of theater and liked that world. 

In fact, I was already involved also in a little 
theater. That's right, I was very much involved in a 
little theater in Hollywood. At that time I was in plays. 
I did it out of necessity, because I couldn't talk in front 
of people. I couldn't open my mouth. So I went to Anita 
Dickson Academy of Theater to take diction. I couldn't 
talk, I was so scared. 

ZOLOTOW: But what about the meetings at the studio? 
ENGEL: Well, it was very rough on me, because I died 
every time I had to-- 
ZOLOTOW: — express yourself. 

ENGEL: Or say anything. And I was very shy, enormously 
shy. And that's why sometimes I said very little in those 
big meetings. I was different when I got to know people. 
But I went to the Anita Dickson theater to overcome the 
fright, and before you know it, they put me in a play. I 
don't tell it to lots of people. I died every time I went 
on stage, but I forced myself to do it, because I knew I 
needed to overcome this fright. 

I know other people say other things about Walt 



28 



influencing their life. Of course, it would influence 
you if you'd had forty years. But I was only there about 
three and a half, four years. And I fought more for what 
I wanted to get out into the thing than I got from them, 
because as I say, these people, most of them were not 
exposed to-- 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, Walt had invented the animation technique, 
the in-betweening and everything that you learned. I mean, 
in a sense, everybody was his child. 

ENGEL: Well, not everybody was his child, and the animation 
was already on the scene, it was already invented. All 
that stuff was already in motion, the in-betweening and all " 
this. But Walt had ideas. You see, if Walt was a good 
artist-- Walt, let's face it, you know, he couldn't draw 
like his talent. But it's not important, because as I say, 
like Griffith couldn't act, he had all the other ingredients. 
He wanted to do things. You know, he had these dreams. 
And he knew how to do it, because he looked at the stock 
and he said, "No, I don't want this--I want that. Forget 
it." But Walt was the drive. He was a force in the place. 
And so you were doing things with the idea that he would 
like what you're doing, because he would either come in and 
he'd buy it, or he would say, "No, I don't like that. I'm 
not going to buy that. So start all over again." But his 
instincts for his needs were right. Naturally my desire. 



29 



like doing the "Russian Dance," and all that--of enormous 
simplicity--it was bought, as I said, because we ran out 
of money. But in other areas, he wouldn't buy it, because 
he wanted things always to be right in front of you, not 
hidden. It was never to suggest the idea. It was put in 
front of you. But, what the hell, if you could gain a 
little something. 

ZOLOTOW: Then after Walter was the Air Force. I guess 
that must be where UPA started. 

ENGEL: Yes, the Air Force. Then came the Air Force, and 
we were at Hal Roach in Culver City. And UPA was, in a 
small way, in motion. But John Hubley was at Hal Roach, 
Bill Hurtz, Herb Klynn, myself, Rudi LoRiva, Willa Spire. 
So the bulk was already in motion there. And the good 
thing there was that a lot of ideas were put into motion 
doing training films for the Air Force. 
ZOLOTOW: You had more sympathetic ears, didn't you? 
ENGEL: Well, also, you see, the Air Force was new. They 
set up a motion picture unit, and the people would come 
around and say, "Well, you guys know what the hell it's 
all about, so we're not going to tell you how to do it." 
So in the animation unit, where I was involved now for the 
first time, because they didn't care, we were able to use 
shapes, sizes, and all kinds of things for certain things. 
I remember I had to do a map--I had about five or eight 



30 



cities. Well, I made little Kandinsky-like images of 
each city. I made a down shot, so I had to stand on a 
wall. And I remember bhis lieutenant came in--his name 
was Baer, and before, I think, he was working with Orson 
Welles. He came into the room and (I was just a sergeant) 
and he looked at the map, and he says, "God damn it, they 
look like Kandinsky." [laughter] Well, son of a bitch, 
evidently he knew something about art. But the other 
people didn't say that or didn't realize that. "Are you 
kidding?" He looked at the map and said that's what it is. 
Well, in a sense I was doing that. But that is a small 
thing. But at the same time we were able to do all kinds 
of things. Like we were sending food over to some other 
countries, and [we were supposed to] show the stuff. And 
instead of using apples, oranges, bananas, we used words: 
apples , oranges . So in a sense, the Air Force was by the 
far the best environment to try out ideas that other studios 
[wouldn ' t use] . 

ZOLOTOW: If it worked, they bought it, eh? 

ENGEL: Oh, they bought it. If it worked, they bought it. 
And they said, "Well, you know what this is all about. We 
don't." And that was the most democratic studio I had ever 

worked in. 

ZOLOTOW: I wasn't aware of that. 

ENGEL: We could do anything we wanted to do, and we did it. 



31 



We tried out all kinds of graphic inventions. 

ZOLOTOW: Bill Hurtz must have been a kid in those years. 

I had the idea he was a lot younger than you and Hubley 

and the others. 

ENGEL: Funny, because he was the one married already. I 

remember we would go out to nightclubs, and they would 

always ask for his cards, because he had those eyelashes. 

ZOLOTOW: He just looked young. 

ENGEL: He looked like eighteen — no, he looked like sixteen. 

But anyone with a f ace--generally people who have tiny noses 

and big eyes and round heads-- 

ZOLOTOW: Was he fairly sophisticated about what was going 

on in the world of painting? 

ENGEL: Yes, well, this, you see, is what then motivated 

UPA, because men like Hurtz and like Hubley--and of course 

Herb Klynn was a very important man. He's always been 

overlooked and not given credit. Herb was the first of 

what I consider--don ' t forget we're talking about that 

world--was the first really fine graphic artist in the 

whole business, including Disney and everybody else. 

ZOLOTOW: I remember Herb Klynn used to get copies of 

Arts et Metiers Graphiques and Gebelsgraf ik — all the 

European art magazines. I remember him as being aware. 

Now, was that true? He was totally aware? 

ENGEL: He was more than aware; he was able to do it. 



32 



Because I remember we were working with Alvin Lustig doing 

the Magoo titles, and Herb had to go over the damn thing 

to correct the lettering. Fantastic lettering! Airbrush, 

colorist--he had that stuff. 

ZOLOTOW: Is he as important a factor as Hubley? 

ENGEL: Well, for me, yes, because the first titles on UPA 

films, on the early three that we did for Columbia, if you 

see the title pages, it was all designed by Herb. Now, 

those were the first really sophisticated titles that came 

out of the whole goddamned motion picture industry. Let me 

put it that way. 

ZOLOTOW: Where was Herb trained? 

ENGEL: Ohio. And he had a very, very — I mean, his training 

was very strong. And he knew about color. He knew about 

the chemistry of color. He did airbrushing that you 

couldn't believe. 

ZOLOTOW: Did he know about French painting? 

ENGEL: He knew everything about all that! He was with us 

at Culver City. But he was a civilian working for the Air 

Force. UPA was already in motion on Vine Street, and I was 

working there, evenings or weekends, doing coloring. They 

needed a lettering man on a sequence, and I said, "There's 

a guy in the Air Force. His name's Herb Klynn. He's very 

good at lettering." Well, they got him up there. And 

that was it. That was the beginning. I got him up there. 



33 



ZOLOTOW: That's fabulous. 

ENGEL: Yes. And you see, if you realize that those title 
cards were an early UPA function from the very beginning 
and they were all designed by Herb--now you put those 
cards against all the other stuff in the whole industry, 
including the live action — nobody had that effect. That 
was the thing that started even the--because, you see, 
then we had the first job at UPA, "Fourposter , " which was 
Hubley's job. The motion picture people seeing those 
titles was also a reason why the jobs came to UPA. That 
was the first live action picture where you really had 
titles. Saul [Bass] came much later. In fact. Herb and 
I were doing outside jobs for the Mirisch Company, about 
eighteen full-page ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter . 
We did a full-page ad, which is the first one, I think in 
1951 or '52 for A Woman with Four Faces (I have that some- 
place) , where she [Joanne Woodward] won the Oscar. Full- 
page ads in Variety and Reporter . [The movie in question ■ 
was actually called The Three Faces of Eve (1957) .] So we 
were doing--see, this is Herb's contribution. 
ZOLOTOW: Wasn't Herb involved in a law suit with Saul? 
Wasn't that — ? 
ENGEL: No, that was Les Goldman. 

So Herb, for me, was very important in the whole 
structure of the picture business, and then if you want to 



34 



come down, just the animation business, because he was 

the first man who was able to put this kind of a really 

refined typography on the screen, plus color. Because 

he was the one responsible — 

ZOLOTOW: I'm interested in this connection to painting. 

ENGEL: Now, he was painting all the time here. He was 

painting all the time. In fact, we had a couple of shows 

together. He was very good. But then Herb got naturally 

more and more involved with management, because now, you 

see. Herb was made manager of the whole studio at UPA. 

See, he not only had these other talents [with] the brush, 

but he was very good in an executive area, to write up 

contracts and all of that. Of course, also there's 

another side. But he was put into that position, and he 

was very good at that. So he was painting, and although 

he still paints, his painting, even five, eight, ten years 

back, was already on a downfall, because — 

ZOLOTOW: Can you visualize to me what it was like when it 

was good--say, fifteen years ago--what he was interested in? 

ENGEL: Very articulate. He always painted people or houses 

and streets, all that, very articulate painting at first, 

almost a little bit like [Charles] Sheeler, the early 

paintings . 

ZOLOTOW: The American Sheeler? 

ENGEL: Yes. You know, he painted those factories. 



35 



ZOLOTOW: Sure, like photography. Very much like photo- 
graphic images. 

ENGEL: Well, he had perspective in his work. Herb was 
painting like that then, very hard-edge, but — 
ZOLOTOW: Sheeier was the only one in America doing it 
at that time. 

ENGEL: Sheeier has a lot of atmosphere and mood, whereas 
Herb had a very beautiful color sense, excellent. 
ZOLOTOW: Flat. 

ENGEL: And very flat. Then he goes away from that and 
gets very impressionistic and stuff like that. But he 
didn't develop. 

ZOLOTOW: But it is kind of a sign that he was aware 
and influenced by that whole Georgia ' Keef f e- [ John] Marin- 
Sheeler American school. 

ENGEL: No, he had all of that. Herb had all of that. Well, 
Hubley was aware; Bill Hurtz was aware; and I was aware. 
So that, you see, was the gut of the UPA. Now, the other 
most important man was, of course, Robert Cannon, the 
animator. And Robert Cannon was the important man. And 
also what was about Cannon was that he had this idea again 
of how to move, how to animate. Which was not the Disney 
approach. Some people call it animation, which it's not. 
But the thing about Cannon--because I worked closely with 
him--was that Cannon was open to ideas and wanted to do 



36 



I 

I 



fresh and new things. He would go along with me and Herb 
because he didn't have the graphic, the color, like Hubley 
had. Hubley had all that, because Hubley was painting and 
whatnot. But Cannon was not that. Cannon was an animator, 
a most creative animator, and a filmmaker. But all of that 
was instinctive. It was intuitive with him. Hub was more 
the artist. But Cannon would go with Herb and me on visual 
or graphic concepts, you see, because he knew that was right 
and he knew instinctively. This is how Jaywalker , Fudget' s 
Budget , stuff like that were created. See, Hub left very 
early — Hub left in '52 or '53. 

ZOLOTOW : I have wondered, in my mind, to distinguish between 
what the Disney people were thinking about movement and the 
way you people started to think about movement, and one 
idea popped into my head that I want to test on you. Disney 
was always trying to create sort of Renaissance space. All 
his movements had to be the movements of volumes in space. 
But it appeared to me that cubist space, flat space, suddenly 
appeared in UPA, and that made it possible to make moves 
that weren't volumes in space but were moves parallel to the 
picture plane and other moves. Now, am I crazy, or is that 
really — ? 

ENGEL: Well, you're putting it into a very intellectual and 
sophisticated level, because this feeling of Renaissance 
space and all that--Disney wouldn't know what the hell you 



37 



were talking about. You don't need to make an intellectual 
movement out of something that had nothing to do with intel- 
ligence. Disney was strictly commercially oriented. His 
people working at the studio wouldn't know what you were 
talking about either. Nor would his animators. What they 
were aware of was that they had to create personalities in 
order for a studio like that to exist, to function. And 
this is where Walt was, again, what he was. He had to 
create personalities. Mickey Mouse was a personality but 
certainly not Renaissance in any way. Mickey Mouse was 
like a [Charlie] Chaplin, let's say, for another studio. 
Donald Duck, let's say, came like a Jerry Lewis. In other 
words, they had to create personalities in order for the 
studio to live, to function. Like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had 
people under contract. So when you create this kind of 
personality, which is very close to reality, you have to 
animate them as close to reality as you possibly can. So 
whatever was going on around the character, it was a natural 
thing that if you have a character, like a Donald Duck or a 
Goofy, who had all the characteristics of a human being 
moving, they had to put him in a room, which has the charac- 
teristic of a natural environment. They were thinking on 
that level. But the important thing was to create personali- 
ties, [phone rings; tape recorder turned off] 
ZOLOTOW: Yes, go back to the Disney days a little. 



38 



ENGEL: So Disney was out to create personalities, like 
a major studio had a Clark Gable and a Harold Lloyd and 
Douglas Fairbanks and all those people under contract. 
They became merchandise of the major studios. So Disney 
was creating personalities in order to hang the whole 
studio on it. If you have personalities like that, then 
naturally they are going to impersonate a real person, 
and then they had to move like a real person. And if 
you're going to have a real person working for you, then 
the physical environment has to also be real. The best 
people that could give that reality were the painters that 
were functioning, and they were thinking of painting of 
that kind. And one of the large talents as a painter- 
talent, I think, was Lee Blair, who was also one of the 
great West Coast watercolorists , like Barse Miller, Millard 
Sheets, Phil Dike, and even Emil Kosa, Jr. 
ZOLOTOW: Did Kosa work for — ? 

ENGEL: No, but these were the people that made the scene. 
And all the painters at that time were influenced by these 
people's watercolors. So the Disney background painters 
were all painters of that ilk. They had no other desire, 
and they had no other need. Barse Miller and Millard 
Sheets and Phil Dike were the best of that type. Also, 
the film, the character, needed that kind of environment. 
Of course, that was Walt's bag, working in that terrain. 



39 



ZOLOTOW: Well now, wait a minute. The characters were 
abstract. I mean, what the hell could be more abstract 
than Mickey? 

ENGEL: You might use the word abstract , but they would 
die if you used the word abstract . 
ZOLOTOW: I understand that. 

ENGEL: No. Mickey Mouse is not abstract like abstract 
art. As far as they were concerned, the characters had 
dimension. The characters were three-dimensional. And 
then you go into Snow White , and Snow White was airbrushed, 
and the face was three-dimensional. In Bambi the characters 
were three-dimensional. They had volumes; they had-- 
ZOLOTOW: Yes, but the volumes were always eggshapes , 
ellipses. In a sense, that's a high degree of abstraction. 
ENGEL: They had to do that in order to give it a kind of 
structure that anybody can pick up and say, "Here's the 
structure." The head is a circle, the body is an eggshape . 
So you had to have the structure underneath all that so 
anyone can pick it up and work with it, and also because it 
was easier to maneuver, to animate those shapes. You can 
put a structure in that very easily and locate the place 
for the eye and the nose and all that. But the whole aspect 
of it was still a natural environment, where a three- 
dimensional person who behaves like a real person can 
function; therefore, the painter had to be painterly, didn't 



40 



have to be an artist. He was more or less a renderer. 

ZOLOTOW: Except I do remember distortions of size, 

distortions of color. 

ENGEL: Well, the size and all that. You have no choice. 

You got to have that because you're still working with 

the film. You're working with a medium that is the 

property of the poets. But, you see, a lot of those 

things came about because they had no choice. They had 

to go, but it was never done with any kind of a static 

thinking. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, most painters don't do their own-- Theories 

come after the fact, right? 

ENGEL: Yes, somebody thinks them up later. 

ZOLOTOW: Naturally, Walt and those guys wouldn't have 

theory. But you must see, you know, that theirs was not a 

school of photorealism, and theirs was not a school of 

realism. Theirs was a pretty abstract way of drawing and 

painting, even though they didn't know it. 

ENGEL: As far as they were concerned, their scene was 

realism, total realism when they painted the leaves and the 

grass-- 

ZOLOTOW: They thought mice looked like Mickey? [laughter] 

ENGEL: Come on-- I mean when they painted the trees and 

the grass and the meadows and the flowers and all that, it 

was really — if you were around there, that was realism. 



41 



And if you, as I say, look at the Snow White backgrounds, 
Peter Pan , Pinocchio , you know, Bambi backgrounds-- [they 
are] almost photographic. And once in a while they would 
get off, maybe, and push the other way, but the other way 
was not good because that wasn't Walt's scene. This is 
where you have to give the man his credit. No matter 
what happened with any other person in the world, and no 
matter how successful it was, Walt said, "That's not me." 
And he said that! "That's not me. I can't think that 
way." I mean, he was aware of UPA--people mentioned and 
things were said about UPA--but Walt said, "That's not 
me." And in that sense, you have to give him his credit, 
that he wouldn't just say, "Hey, look, those guys are 
doing something great over there. Why don't we do it 
better?" Frankly, when they tried to do something like 
that, and although they say it's not, it was bad, [like] 
Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom . I don't care what they 
say — because they say, "No, it's not UPA inf luence"--but 
damn it, it is UPA influence because they tried to go into 
the flat design. And it's a disaster, because the taste 
is bad, the color is bad. They didn't work it from in 
their gut, you know. They were working it like, "Look, 
Ma, I made an abstraction." 

In other words, they had the talent to do the other 
stuff, but in this area, for me, they only worked the 



42 



surface, and the surface wasn't good. And this is what a 
lot of people don't understand about UPA, because even 
now, you hear animators talk about like, "Oh, yeah, we'll 
do those backgrounds, we do those backgrounds." But it's 
not good because they don't work it out. They just look 
at it, and they think, "We'll copy it." 

ZOLOTOW: There's no question that Disney worked from his 
gut. And I think that's why the young people now look 
back and see Disney through different eyes. Now, how about 
you? Does Disney's stuff look different to you now than it- 
did when you were in the middle of it, rebelling against it? 
Do you place a higher value on it, now? 

ENGEL: No, I don't. I feel that it was right for the time, 
and it was right for Disney. And it was right for the 
animators. There are sequences, there are moments in some 
of the Disney efforts, like the pink elephant sequence in 
Dumbo , when you see that thing today, it's magic, it's 
beautiful. And how the hell that ever got made in that 
environment is still a mystery. That is a beautiful piece 
of motion, movement. But I don't get taken with the stuff. 
I admire the craft, and you have to start someplace. But 
it's craft. 

ZOLOTOW: I notice you're not wearing a Mickey Mouse watch, 
[laughter] 
ENGEL: I could never do that, because I cannot advertise 



43 



other people. I don't want to advertise other people. 
That's what you're doing when you carry it. But I still 
don't have that feel for what they did, because, damn it, 
when I see some stuff of Jan Lenica or [Walerian] 
Borowczyk or I see an early [Oskar] Fischinger or a [Norman] 
McLaren, it's still the thing that turns me on. And 
although I admire the craft, the animation know-how, of 
Pinocchio and some of the Bambi stuff, it doesn't turn 
me on, you see. So that's the difference. And in that 
sense my feeling, my sensitivities are not changed. But 
I do admire Disney as a person who had a sense of direction. 
And he would never let go, just to get on a bandwagon of 
another art form, good, bad — 

But then again, in the world of entertainment, you 
know, there is an enormous amount of room for all kinds 
of endeavors. There are people who would be entertained 
with that, and there are people who will not be entertained. 
And you can't just go one direction, because you're still 
dealing with the mass media. You're still dealing with 
mass entertainment of a kind. 



44 



TAPE NUMBER: II [VIDEO SESSION] 
JANUARY 23, 19 76 

ZOLOTOW: The room is filled with film cans, animation 

cells, sculpture, painting, the products of a long and 

active career as a painter and sculptor and filmmaker. 

[tape recorder turned off] The area you are living in 

is surrounded by all wonderful things, Jules. Is that 

why you moved here to Beverly Hills? Why do you live 

here? 

ENGEL: Well, because it's about the closest thing to a 

city in L.A. , and I love cities. I like the idea of 

walking out on the street and walking to a shop, walking 

over to the laundry, or walking over to the bank or the 

post office. And I like the feeling of the city itself: 

I like buildings, I like windows, I like front doors, I 

like hotel lobbies. I would really like to live in New 

York. That's the kind of life I like surrounding me. 

[laughter] 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, in a way, it's like living off Fifth 

Avenue in New York. 

ENGEL: That's pretty good. Or Madison Avenue and 

Seventy-seventh, that environment. 

ZOLOTOW: When Frank Perls had his gallery here, did you 

hang around there a lot? 

ENGEL: Yes, I used to go up there and see him. He was a 

45 



great influence, you know, on the Los Angeles environment, 
a great personality. Plus I spent some time with him in 
Paris at Deux Magots. I would find him sitting out there 
on the street. 

ZOLOTOW: What about Herb Palmer's new gallery? 
ENGEL: I think that's a great gallery, and he's a very 
unique personality. He always adds a lot of excitement 
to the city. His first shows were very good, very inter- 
esting, and I just hope he stays there and keeps it going. 
It's the only way you can get a city like Los Angeles on 
the map, is to have knowledgeable people stay for years 
and build an art environment, you know. 

ZOLOTOW: Have you been on the whole disappointed by the 
art scene and the gallery scene in Beverly Hills? 
ENGEL: Well, yes, because we just don't seem to have an 
honest and in-depth interest. It's a little bit too 
artificial, too much like table-hopping, you know. This 
is fashionable today — that's fashionable tomorrow. There's 
no reference to historical foundation. We are always 
working in a very small group in the city. You see, in 
New York, you have two or three dozen large galleries. 
You have half a dozen museums. So you have all kinds of 
avenues for expression. But here you have someone who 
can command like a high priest, and does command, "This 
is the way we go," and everybody then follows him. In 



46 



other words, there are no avenues here. 

ZOLOTOW: Have you ever been tempted to move to New York? 
ENGEL: Oh, I've been tempted a hundred times. [laughter] 
ZOLOTOW: What made you resist? 

ENGEL: I'm not resisting; it's just that the working oppor- 
tunities for me have always somehow been here. But if I 
have a chance (as I do once a year) to go anyplace, it's 
always New York. 

ZOLOTOW: But didn't John Hubley create a center in New 
York that you might have worked at? 

ENGEL: Well, he has a center, but that's not my center; 
that's John Hubley 's center because Hubley is Hubley. And 
I am not John Hubley. I have to consider my media of 
abstract animation and of art animation. This style is 
not in any way commercial like Hubley' s. So if I would 
go to New York, I would create my own center, and I would 
let Hubley have his. 

ZOLOTOW: Jules! Here's this big, fat book on Disney, 
and it makes me think of what we were talking about when 
you were reminded of Fantasia , the role you played, and 
what happened. Tell me about Fantasia , and what you did. 
ENGEL: Well, I was hired to do, very specifically, the 
choreography for the "Chinese Dance" and the "Russian 
Dance," and then later I got involved with "Dance of the 
Flutes" and the "Arabian Dance." But evidently they had 



47 



problems with the "Chinese Dance" and the "Russian Dance," 
because no one in that particular unit had any background 
or knowledge or insight of what the dance world is all 
about, what choreography's all about. And I had some 
drawings, you know, so I took it over there. And Phil 
Dike saw the material, and he said, "I would like you to 
work on the continuity "--which means the choreography--"on 
the 'Chinese Dance.'" So that was the beginning of my 
experience with the Disney studio, working on the sequences 
of the "Chinese Dance" of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. 
ZOLOTOW: Did they feel they were out of their depth with 
serious music? 

ENGEL: Well, I mean, they never really adapted serious 
music, but Disney was going to do this project, and it 
came from, you know, it came from [Leopold] Stokowski, but 
I also understand that before Stokowski, it actually came 
from Oskar Fischinger, from Oskar Fischinger to Stokowski, 
from Stokowski to Disney. Somehow they liked the idea, 
and I think Disney felt that he wanted to do something 
that was unique, something different, and it was just a 
natural direction. But they were not in love with that 
world, because, you see, they interpreted it into a kind 
of a calendar art. That was about the height of [their] 
aesthetic intelligence. 
ZOLOTOW: Did they feel that that world was above them, or-- 



48 



ENGEL : It was above them, because, you know, you were 
easily made fun of there if you considered art, or were 
considered to be an artist. Art and art appreciation were 
things that Disney was not very comfortable with--with the 
exception of a few people. But you see, generally, it was 
out of their range completely. 

ZOLOTOW: But yet they were deep into music. What kind 
of music was Disney involved with in that period? 
ENGEL: The music they were involved with would be the 
composer who would score — like they scored a very 
handsome piece for Snow White . So it was a popular 
music, a popular talent, a composer who would just write 
a popular tune, "Whistle VJhile You Work" and stuff like 
that. Unfortunately it's no different today. They do 
the same thing as they did then--no progress. 
ZOLOTOW: I'm curious to know how you introduced some of 
your contemporary ideas into Fantasia . How were they 
visualizing their story boards? Did you play a role in 
changing their vision of how Fantasia should be shot? 
ENGEL: I was very specifically put on the "Chinese Dancer." 
Of course, they wanted to do a Chinese dance with a lot of 
mushrooms jumping around the base of a tree with a lot of 
roots and a lot of weeds and this or that all over the place. 
My intention was to keep it very simple, to get rid of all 
the background environment and just have a nice, flat. 



49 



simple black environment, black backdrop on a stage, you 
see. Simplicity is something I have always believed in. 
You would have a backdrop and then you need light--any 
light source, just have a light shade that gives you the 
idea that light is coming from someplace. So this aspect 
of just having black and not having any texture, any 
physical gimmicks around these little characters, was very 
difficult for them to understand. You look at Fantasia ; 
everything else is just crowded, constantly crowded with 
all kinds of images and shapes and forms. But I think 
actually what happened with this section was that eventu- 
ally they ran out of money. Anyway, that was my under- 
standing. The budget was quickly disappearing, and the 
fact that we were going to work with a black background, 
that means we don't have to put any background artists on 
it. This made sense to them, the finances. And today, I 
think it paid off beautifully, because both the "Russian 
Dance" and the "Chinese Dance" have a beautiful presence, 
almost as if they were done today. That is the test--if 
it will hold today and tomorrow. Naturally it was a lot 
of fighting, an awful lot of fights over that, to put the 
idea across. 

ZOLOTOW: Do you have any drawings from that period? 
ENGEL: I have some materials here which I used to propose 
the character or the spirit of dancing. The color here 



50 



is very important, because the way I used color, it was 
again very fresh and very much removed from their use of 
color, which related more to using color the way an illus- 
trator would. In these examples the primaries and the 
secondaries are just as brilliant but loose and not 
worked over, not too much underpainting and all that stuff. 
This is just brilliant colors on a black background, v/here 
color has a chance to come through into life. 
ZOLOTOW: Did Walt ever see these drawings? 
ENGEL: No, Walt never saw these drawings because the 
studio people were a little afraid that this stuff looked 
a little too way out than what they were used to. In fact, 
they told me to hide those drawings and not to let Walt see 
them. In fact, this is very abstract in character, and 
they told me not to use the word abstract when we went 
into sessions with Walt, because, I said before, you would 
be looked at as either an egghead or an intellectual or 
some kind of weird, weird character. So these are some of 
the drawings, you know, that got by, however, even though 
I hid them. You know, if I hadn't put these drawings away, 
someone would have torn them up. The Disney people never 
allowed you any feeling of creativity, just craft, copying. 
It was a surprise to them and a miracle to me that these 
drawings got in. 
ZOLOTOW: You weren't the only egghead around during that 



51 



period. Wasn't Rico Lebrun on the Disney lot at the time? 
ENGEL: Rico was on the Disney lot at that time. He was 
already training some of the key animators, and animators 
in general that were going to draw for Bambi . And I think 
his role was very comfortable, to be quite blunt. After 
all, he was an immaculate draftsman. All they could do 
was admire him, because this is what most of them wanted 
to be. Or I think they thought they were safe with him. 
He was one of them; he drew real things. They were crafts- 
men of enormous talent, but Lebrun 's influence was very 
important. You can see the deer, for instance, in Snow 
White and see how it's almost a bad drawing. And you 
compare the deer in Bambi ; it's an enormous difference. 
At least now they were under the influence of impeccable 
craftsmanship . 

ZOLOTOW: And they knew where the bones and muscles were. 
ENGEL: Yes, in fact, Lebrun made a number of the sketches, 
and they turned this into books. And here you can see a 
drawing of Rico Lebrun' s. And it gave them an idea of what 
the bone structure of the animal was all about. He had, 
I think, about twenty or thirty pages of different drawings — 
any position, every position of the deer. I mean, he was 
something very, very special, an enormous draftsman, a great 
draftsman. And that's what Disney wanted. 
ZOLOTOW: This is a far cry from the ellipses that the 



52 



Disney people animated. Did they resist this kind of 
attitude toward drawing when Rico introduced it at first? 
ENGEL: As I told you already, Lebrun was very comfortable 
at Disney. Actually, Walt wanted the animals to look, you 
know, real--at least as much, or as close to something 
real. Now, when he got to other characters, like a small 
rabbit or a skunk, and stuff like that, naturally they 
went back to their other style of drawing. But when it 
was deer, when it was Bambi, or the father or the mother 
of Bambi, I mean, those characters were extremely well 
drawn. So they had no choice. They couldn't resist or 
fight it because Walt wanted it to be done that way. After 
all, Walt was the boss in the place. This was his dream, 
and these people had to follow--to make the dream the 
reality. 

ZOLOTOW: Did you get to know Rico during that period? 
ENGEL: Yes, I got to know Rico pretty well, not so much 
in there, but I got to know him after that because he 
used to lecture a great deal at Frank Perls 's. Frank had 
a gallery; he used to lecture there. I knew him socially. 
And he was an enormous influence on the whole Los Angeles 
scene. Of course, two artists. Bill Brice and Howard 
Warshaw, were really, at that time, his disciples, and then 
Edith Wyle was very much--you know, she has The Egg and the 
Eye today. But Brice and Warshaw really were his students. 



53 



ZOLOTOW: If you consider how big the Jepson Art Institute 
was, how do you account for the fact that so few painters 
survived from the number of painters that passed through 
Lebrun's classes? 

ENGEL: Well, I would say that L.A. art in general was 
based on the Western watercolorists , as compared with the 
New York artists, who built their foundations on the 
experimental. So in a historical sense, Lebrun was not a 
trendsetter. You cannot be safe with safe art. Anyway, 
what happened to him? [Herbert Jepson] 
ZOLOTOW: I don't know. 

ENGEL: I saw him recently at a dance festival. I think 
the only two who really are around and working and exhibit- 
ing are Brice and Warshaw. 

ZOLOTOW: Brice and Warshaw were already mature young men 
when they met Rico. Of the people that Rico touched as 
young students, can you think of any that are still active 
in painting? 

ENGEL: Not really. I think one reason--when you are being 
touched by a master like that, I think it's a very bad 
thing. And maybe that is what destroyed a lot of those 
people, because they were living on Lebrun's talent, on 
his personality. And if you do that, you die. You just 
can't do that. You have to find your own way. I think 
most of those people just didn't find their way. 



54 



ZOLOTOW: How do you account for the fact that there was 

seemingly no connection between Lebrun's group and the 

painters that followed? Did you reject Rico's stuff 

because you were an abstract painter? 

ENGEL: Oh, no, no, no. Plus I could never reject Rico's 

works, but I could reject anybody else's work who tried 

to emulate Lebrun. You understand that that's the way 

the cookie crumbles? Rico commanded an enormous presence. 

When he moved into sculpture, I think that Lebrun's large 

talent was in that, but it came too late. All the others 

tried to be Lebrun. The minute you try to be what you 

can't, there's no future. 

ZOLOTOW: How ' d you get this Lebrun here, the one on the 

wall? 

ENGEL: I think I bought it from somebody who wanted to 

pick up some extra dollars. 

ZOLOTOW: What year did you buy it? 

ENGEL: I think I bought it around '59, 1960. I picked 

it up from somebody, but I don't even remember who owned 

the painting. All I know, it was just a lot of people 

around and somebody needed some money. 

ZOLOTOW: Was this before the [Lebrun] "Crucifixion [Series]" 

exhibit at the museum or after? 

ENGEL: No, I think it was before; I think it was before. 

[tape recorder turned off] 



55 



ZOLOTOW: That was an interesting period. There was a lot 
of activity in painting then. Among the guys who were 
working in animation, how many of them were exhibiting 
painters in those years besides yourself? 
ENGEL: There was Paul Julian. He was exhibiting and 
Bob Mcintosh was exhibiting. And I think a little later, 
of course, there was Herb Klynn who also was exhibiting. 
ZOLOTOW: Where did he show? 

ENGEL: I think Herb was showing at Leonard Grossman 
gallery, Leonard Grossman with, I think, Paul Julian 
probably and Bob Mcintosh, because that was the only, what 
we call avant-garde gallery in Los Angeles, Clara Grossman's 
on Hollywood Boulevard. 

ZOLOTOW: I remember Julian showing at the Felix Landau 
Gallery on La Cienega. And I remember sculpture by-- 
ENGEL: --by Paul. Paul very specifically was in the stable 
of Felix Landau, whereas Mcintosh I think was more or less 
showing wherever he had the opportunity. Also I think Helen 
Wurdemann was an enormous influence at that time. She had 
a gallery on Wilshire Boulevard, where the Otis Art Insti- 
tute is. In fact, most of us, at that time, showed the 
first time at Helen Wurdemann ' s gallery on Wilshire Boulevard, 
Because somehow, somebody would recommend you for a show. 
Like, let's say there was a new painter, someone would 
recommend you and you would be showing there. Yes, that was. 



56 



I think, a very important place for Los Angeles painters 

to make their first presence. 

ZOLOTOW : What were you doing at that time? What kind of 

work? 

ENGEL: At that time, I was doing very hard-edge, very 

abstract [work]. My early work was hard-edge. 

ZOLOTOW: You mean like that one over there? 

ENGEL: Like this one down here, and then there's another 

one. This is also an early one. This was characteristic 

of my work of that time--very geometrical, hard-edge, almost 

architectural in character. 

ZOLOTOW: What medium were you working in? 

ENGEL: Mostly watercolor or gouache. But I could use a 

Windsor-Newton and make it look like gouache. But mostly 

gouache . 

ZOLOTOW: Did you ever work with the stuff you worked with 

every day, at the s tudio--cells and--? 

ENGEL: No, I didn't use any cells on any of my work. The 

paint that we used at the studio was very cheap, cheap, 

cheap paint. So I would never use that for my work, because 

that stuff was always just throwaway. 

ZOLOTOW: How did you relate the two things — what you did 

at the studio and what you did at home? 

ENGEL: Well, I think the most important thing was trying 

to take something into the film that I was doing, let's 



57 



say, of my own work. In other words, the simplicity, the 
directness, the flat aspect of the painting, the color 
taste, the color choice was something that I wanted to 
project into the work at the studio. That was, of course, 
a natural direction, especially if you didn't like anything 
that you saw around you. 

ZOLOTOW : Did it ever work the other, way around? Did you 
ever want to take some of the things that were happening in 
film and move it into painting? 

ENGEL: No. The most elementary thing being motion, I 
wanted to use my artwork in film. I was always interested 
in motion, and that aspect of motion didn't come to me 
until a little later, of putting just that onto film, what 
actually Fischinger was doing earlier. So the motion 
aspect of it is a big factor. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, the painters and the futurists in the 
twenties were concerned with motion. Did you ever get 
into that kind of representation of motion on a canvas? 
ENGEL: No, no way. No way. No, they didn't interest me, 
because I was much more interested in almost architectural 
image on the canvas. In other words, it was almost like the 
idea of using the canvas just as a flat surface, which later 
developed into what [Ellsworth] Kelly was doing, and Ad 
Reinhardt. It developed into that world, you see. But 
the movement, for me, took care of movement for my films. 



58 



This is very interesting. I threw away or lost the early 
ones. I destroyed the films until I was satisfied with 
my work, until about ten, twelve years ago, in 1961, '62, 
when I began to consider keeping my pure abstract films 
and to put motion onto film. But then I just began using 
pure shapes. 

ZOLOTOW: Could I see some of the abstract things you were 
doing during that period? What's that black and white one 
over there, Jules, those volumes? 

ENGEL: Well, these may be volumes to you, but in animation 
these would be seconds of film. This was the beginning, 
you see, of moving into that world. This was the first 
one. And then there was another one, which was also a 
first one of that terrain. And this-- 

ZOLOTOW: How did you work with these painted surfaces, to 
digress? 

ENGEL: Well, this was wood first. I cut it and glued 
onto the background and then painted over. 
ZOLOTOW: Did you have film material like this? 
ENGEL: No, the film came a little later, but this was the 
first--this was the beginning of this kind of a-- Because 
you see, this is just pure movement. Here is where, for me, 
movement was beginning to be very much part of my work. Not 
like the futurists, who went out and wanted to put a loco- 
motive or a streetcar or a running horse and stuff like that. 



59 



See, again, I go back to the straight line and put the 
straight line into motion. For me, the straight line 
always means something very, very intriguing. I mean, 
the vertical line was very intriguing. 

ZOLOTOW: You know, the paper that describes you for this 
series calls you a Bauhaus painter, and this is about the 
only thing I've seen around that makes me think back to 
the Bauhaus and [Laszlo] Moholy [-Nagy] . Do you consider 
yourself Bauhaus influenced? 

ENGEL: Well, let's say I admire the Bauhaus very much, 
but I don't-- Well, I can't help it if people see a con- 
tinuity between my work and Bauhaus. I mean, I admire 
them enough that I will not be unhappy about that, [laughter; 
ZOLOTOW: Maybe it's because you're Hungarian. 
ENGEL: Maybe because I'm a Hungarian and because Moholy- 
Nagy is a Hungarian and [Gyorgy] Kepes was Hungarian. The 
whole group of these characters who were working in that 
terrain. But I think this is just the way I am put together. 
It's my chemistry, and it is not a question of Bauhaus, 
you know, because I could just forget the damn thing and 
do something else. But I still am wedded to this character 
of very structured and organized imagery on a canvas. This 
intrigues me. And yet Martha Graham intrigues me, and 
Alvin Alley intrigues me, and Twyla Tharp intrigues me. 
That's an enormous contradiction to your Bauhaus idea of me. 



60 



of what they do and how they move on stage, isn't it? 

ZOLOTOW: Did you ever draw them as people? 

ENGEL: No, I have absolutely never had any desire ever 

to draw people. Never. 

ZOLOTOW: Have you ever photographed people? 

ENGEL: No, I don't even like to photograph people. I 

feel I'm intruding on their privacy, and I think they have 

every right to resent being photographed. 

ZOLOTOW: Have you ever photgraphed objects? 

ENGEL: Objects, yes. Oh, yes. Chairs all over the place. 

Buildings, s tairways--anything and everything. See, for me, 

a person comes to life on the stage either in the theater 

or as a dance on stage. 

ZOLOTOW: Did you ever do sets for the theater? 

ENGEL: Oh, sets I've done. I did sets in Paris. I did 

a very important play, LesJouex. I designed a set for 

Les Jouex, a very contemporary play. And also other 

things . 

ZOLOTOW: Let's move on, along the work there, and see what 

other periods you have there. This kind of complicated 

spatial diagram is one. What's happening back there? 

ENGEL: These paintings are of more recent vintage. 

ZOLOTOW: Is that a serigraph? 

ENGEL: That's a serigraph, yes. But here again I'm 

working with these particular shapes that I'm always 



61 



intrigued with. In fact, I put this into animation, where 
it turned out to be a little bit too much work, and too 
complicated. After about eighteen or twenty-four drawings, 
I think I gave it up, and then worked them into a single 
painting. 

ZOLOTOW: When we were talking about Disney, we were talking 
about his preoccupations with volumes and deep space. In a 
way, you're going back to representing deep space, except 
that you've got a lot of perspective at work. 
ENGEL: But this is totally different; the shapes here are 
always in limbo and in space. In other words, I don't put 
perspective lines that would tell you that there is a front 
and there is a back, see. The only thing that would give 
you that feeling, maybe, is because the shape in the fore- 
ground is a little larger and the other shape is a little 
smaller, so it gives you a feeling of depth. But that 
idea of putting perspective lines that would take you back 
and stop, I generally don't work with that. It doesn't 
exist in any of the work I do or ever did. In other words, 
this whole terrain for me is still an area where you do 
nothing but excavate and come out and try to find new 
avenues. 

ZOLOTOW: You know, it strikes me that most of your work 
is very small in scale, just about the same as animation 
cell or background. Do you ever do bigger things? 



62 



ENGEL: Of course. They are architectural, but these are 
mock-ups of the real things. 

ZOLOTOW: Where do you think paintings belong? 
ENGEL: Painting belongs in a home, in apartments, in 
museums. It belongs in the kitchen; it belongs to whenever 
and wherever somebody's in love with the painting and wants 
to live with it. 

ZOLOTOW: Are you one of the film people that thinks that 
film and video's going to replace painting? 

ENGEL: No way. It's impossible. I think film is important, 
I think video is important. But you can't live with film 
twenty-four hours a day because it belongs in a can, and 
you need a projector, you need a screen, you need all kinds 
of gadgets. But beside that, it's another world. It's 
another medium. It's a medium where you deal with light. 
It's a medium that also is a quickie. What I mean is, when 
you see a film--I have a very difficult time seeing a film 
twice. The second time they fall apart for me. And I love 
films. I mean, I've been in that world all my life. But 
the third time they die on me. Whereas painting, there's 
some magic about a painting. You can look at the damn 
thing and look at the damn thing, and you discover new 
avenues in that. But film — the greatest films that I've 
seen--oh, let's forget the word great, because that doesn't 
exist--but let's say the best of the very good films that 



63 



I have seen, the third time, they fall apart. In other 
words, because it's still a bastard medium. Which is 
good. Which is good. It hadn't found itself yet; it's 
developing. And this is healthy. Let's face it, we're 
talking about an art that's seventy years old. It's not 
like the world of painting, where you have five hundred 
years, great artists. I mean, we have seventy years of 
film making and-- 

ZOLOTOW: Well, some people contend that painting is on 
its way down, and film is on its way up. How do you 
feel about that? 

ENGEL : : Oh, I hope film is on the way up. After seventy 
years, it has no other place but going up. In other words, 
we don't have a Titian or a Rubens, the Rembrandts and El 
Grecos and the Goyas, and we certainly have no Picassos, 
Braques, and Matisses. And Jackson Pollock. I mean, that's 
a point of view. So after seventy years, you have no choice 
but going up. But from my point of view, I think a lot 
of film making is going down, because they're taking on the 
enormous presence of an illustrator. All of a sudden, most 
of the films look like they came out of the hand of an illus- 
trator. The mediums of the film are not being used to 
capacity, let alone beyond this. They're using the camera 
to illustrate an illustrator's script. They illustrate. 
They are illustrations. They don't even use several images 



64 



in order to design a film. What they do, now, they take 

a very good picture, an enormously beautiful picture, and 

then they keep going into it, let's say for a close-up. 

So they compose things inside this piece of illustration, 

instead of using first shot, second shot, and a third shot, 

and put the three together in such a way that it becomes a 

composition that you can only get through films. We're not 

doing that. We're beginning to illustrate again. But then, 

what the hell, within seventy years-- 

ZOLOTOW: Are there economic reasons? 

ENGEL: Oh, no, no. Talent, talent. That is nothing to do 

with economics. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, they tell me that one reason that — 

ENGEL: When you spend $11 million on a film, there's no 

problem of economics. When you spend 4 million, there's 

no problem of economics. What the hell, you can take a piece 

of 20x30 inch canvas, and you can put a masterpiece down. 

So it's not a question of economics. It's a question of 

talent, of thinking. 

ZOLOTOW: How does sculpture relate to your painting and 

film? When did you get into sculpture? 

ENGEL: I got into sculpture around '61. I went to Europe, 

and I was very impressed with Rome and Florence and Venice-- 

that whole environment. [tape recorder turned off] 

ZOLOTOW: So sculpture really turned you on in Europe, 



65 



and of course you made your things here. 

ENGEL: Yes, but I first really saw things there, and what 
turned me on really was the structures. I liked their 
buildings. I liked the free flow of a lot of the designs 
on some of the buildings, and, of course, the great masters, 
you know. But I still had no desire to do anything with the 
figure, because, again, I went back into the very architec- 
tural kind of imagery. And eventually, like, you see this 
centerpiece on a table, this is what happened--! began to 
realize that there was no sculpture to me that's related to 
the American image. See that centerpiece? This is the 
American image--the skyscraper. And that's the beginning of 
my realization that there's nothing really in this country 
that relates truly to the American image. And what the 
American image is to me, is really the skyscraper. 

Also what turned me on was that some time ago, about that 
time, I landed in Washington, D.C., and I saw all this — I saw 
Lincoln in a Roman environment. I saw the [Washington] obelisk, 
which is an Egyptian thing. I saw all Roman and Greek and Egyp- 
tian shapes in Washington, D.C., surrounding the American giants, 
you know. And I said, "Wait a minute. There's something wrong 
here. Why can't we have some kind of a shape, form, or sculp- 
ture, something that relates to this country?" And that was 
also one reason that I started to do this kind of shape, which 
to me is the American image — nothing Roman, nothing Greek, 



66 



nothing Egyptian, nothing but just American New York. 
ZOLOTOW: Well, that was what was so wonderful about 
animation, the fact that it really was a native art. And 
I remember that explosion that occurred when Gerald McBoing 
Boing hit the theaters, and for the first time, animation 
came from a source outside Disney. How did that happen? 
How did UPA grow out of Disney? 

ENGEL: First of all, animation is not just a native art. 
It had a background other than America. What happened [was 
that] some of us-- I worked at Disney, Hubley worked at 
Disney, and Bill Hurtz worked at Disney. Let's say that 
we had other ideas. We had other concepts of what an 
animated film should look like. We were aware, very aware, 
that at Disney everybody was pushing the film toward what 
we call illustration. I mean, illustration that would work 
better in a magazine. Now, of course, there is a place for 
all that sort of thing, and there are people who love that. 
But we had other points of view, because we were already 
very much involved with contemporary art. You know, we were 
aware of Matisse. We were aware of Paul Klee and Kandinsky. 
Dufy was, I think, very important for us. Leger was very 
important for us. 

ZOLOTOW: The divorced line was a big thing in animation. 
ENGEL: Also we wanted the character flat, and let's not 
divorce the character from the background. What they did 



67 



over at Disney was that they put the character in front 
of the background. And that is even wrong in a world of 
theater. When a set designer designs with an idea that 
he's going to put a design behind a character, he's already 
off on the wrong foot. The important thing for a design, 
even in the theater, is to design so the character fits 
into the environment. In as much as we decided to work on 
a flat surface with the character flat, we wanted to push 
the two things together, and flatten out the background, 
flatten out the character, and now you're on a terrain, on 
a very honest, aesthetic point of view. Because you're 
not trying to cheat. You're not trying to make a three- 
dimensional background and put a two-dimensional character 
in it. 

That was one of the point of views at UPA that we 
were very aware of. We wanted to have that happen and we 
did. It really happened and happened big and happened 
well in Gerald McBoing Boing . I have some materials here. 
Here is Gerald McBoing Boing from one scene. Then here's 
another Gerald McBoing Boing. Again, if you notice, 
something very interesting here. For instance, you don't 
see any lines. You don't see any line that would tell you 
where the floor stops and the walls start, and where the 
ceiling starts. In other words, the environment is estab- 
lished through the shapes that you were putting into the 



68 



scene. If you had a shape close and that was large, that 
gave you the point of view that this is the foreground. 
And then back here, when a shape was smaller, that estab- 
lished the position of distance and time. 

But this point of view was a good one, and we knew we 
were doing something right. We wanted to get away from 
what we called just pure Sunday calendar illustration, 
that so much of the Disney background was about; and for 
us, it constantly fought a flat character. So this was 
the beginning of our thinking, of having a flat character 
working in a background where he would either do away with 
a horizon line where you would say, "This is the ground, 
and this is the sky." All that was not important in the 
world of painting, because our approach was more of a 
painterly approach, or an artist's approach, who was aware 
of the flat surface and knew what the hell that is all 
about. 

ZOLOTOW: Do you think it's comparable to what happened 
in cubism, when the picture place got flattened out after 
all those years of deep space? 

ENGEL: Well, for me, I'm a kind of primitive in thought; 
I'm not what you call an intellectual. And I think those 
things have to happen. I think there is no choice. I 
think an artist, a serious person, will come upon things. 
I think Picasso came upon things, because everything else 



69 



was there. And he said, "I'm going to do something with 

all that, and I have a new point of view." Then he went 

about and brought this thing into a position. But also, 

I think he did something very interesting, the cubist 

approach, that very much exists in film, or in a film 

world. Because when you have a close-up and you have a 

slow cross-dissolve to a profile and you have a slow 

cross-dissolve to another point of view, you now have 

three separate aspects of the image, looking at it from 

a different position. And they are all on the screen at 

the same time. I think in a strange way cubism is very 

much in a film world, and I think a lot of filmmakers are 

not even aware that this thing really is on the screen, 

which is pure cubism, where you show a different aspect of 

the image, at the same time, on a screen. 

ZOLOTOW: What other influences of French painting can 

you see on film? How about that thing you mentioned, Dufy 

and the divorced line? 

ENGEL: Dufy was very, very, very influential, and I think 

I have something here where you can see the divorced line. 

Now of course, this is very, very — 

ZOLOTOW: That's not so divorced. [laughter] 

ENGEL: Well, it is divorced. 

ZOLOTOW: That's tightened up. 

ENGEL: No, no, it's enormously divorced when you see the 



70 



shape and where the black line is working. The divorced 
line here is very obvious. But it's very articulate; it's 
very clean; it's very neat. You notice we couldn't quite 
work Dufy in the film, because you're still dealing with 
a piece of merchandise that will be used by millions of 
people. 

But it was very interesting, because even at [the] 
studio at UPA, the animators at first were very much against 
this idea of a divorced line from a shape. In fact, they 
made fun of it. They were knocking it, and they were 
criticizing it quietly. But once it got out there and 
people accepted it and we were applauded, then they shut 
up, and the criticism then died down. But at first, they 
were really not with it, because they said, "What the hell 
is the matter with this? There's something wrong. The 
line is missing at the edge of the shape." 
ZOLOTOW: Where ' d the color come from in those days? 
ENGEL: Well, I would think the first big influence at UPA 
was from Herb Klynn and myself. Herb was in charge of that 
aspect of it, let's say, background color. And I was working 
with Herb, and it came from me also. Then Herbie was moved 
into a managerial job, and the whole thing was on my shoulder 
So color was something that was in my bag, and I then had all 
the say-so, the total say-so, all the right to do as I damn 
well pleased. And then I really began to push colo: into 



71 



this medium that it never really had had before. 
ZOLOTOW: You must have been looking at paintings during 
that period. Which paintings do you think influenced your 
use of color? 

ENGEL: Use of color? Well, several, but I think Matisse 
was very important. I think Paul Klee was very important. 
Leger was very important, because he's so clear and clean. 
He uses the strong primaries, but always uses them very 
elegantly. But of course I must also mention Braque, and 
I must also mention Picasso. And I think that would take 
care of it. 

ZOLOTOW: All Europe. No one on the American scene that 
you were interested in? 

ENGEL: Oh, the only American scene painter that I was 
interested in for color was Albers , Josef Albers--and 
Hans Hofmann. Hans Hofmann and Albers were the two that 
I would look to. The other person who also interested me 
very, very much, and I tried to get some of that stuff into 
some of the UPA films, was Stuart Davis. But if you're 
talking about mood, then it's something else. [Charles] 
Burchfield and [Edward] Hopper--I was very, very keen on 
them. But Albers and Hans Hofmann, the use of the wild 
colors [by] Hans Hofmann, for me that was very beautiful. 
And Stuart Davis, for me, that was very, very important on 
the American scene. 



72 



ZOLOTOW: Yes, I see the connection. 

ENGEL: But, as I say, we just opened a whole new world 
then at UPA. The way I used color there, which you and I 
could never do at Disney. Because there, color was used 
simply as an illustration, and not as color which has 
something to do with the dramatics. Again, you see, at 
Disney, they put the color behind the character instead 
of putting the character into the color. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, didn't you have problems putting colors on 
cells, though? Doesn't color fall off? 

ENGEL: No, that's no problem, because you put it on the 
cell, at that time, whatever paint was used, and it was 
sharp. So it didn't matter what the hell happened after 
that. Today with acrylic and stuff, you can put paint on 
a cell, and it will stay on it for the next fifty, hundred 
years. You can step on it, you can walk on it, you can 
bend it, you know. But it didn't matter then. It just had 
to last from your desk to the camera. Once it was shot, it 
would go into the garbage anyway. 

ZOLOTOW: Wasn't there a difference in the pigments between 
what the painters were using, the permanent pigments, and 
the kind of raw color that you were getting out of cans? 
ENGEL: No, because the subtlety was already there, because 
the question of what color you put in next to another color, 
you know-- But if I wanted to use raw vermilion, which was 



73 



in the primaries, you know, if that was the mood of the 
film, I used that. But otherwise, no, because it's still 
what you put next to another color that makes the damn 
thing work, makes it right or makes it wrong. 
ZOLOTOW: Was Magoo the big commercial success of UPA? 
ENGEL: Magoo kept UPA alive. Magoo was the commercial 
success, and kept us alive, and the other stuff that we 
did, like the Gerald McBoing Boing , The Jaywalker , Frankie 
and Johnny , The Unicorn in the Garden , those were the 
offbeats. We had that contract with Columbia [Pictures 
Corporation] and Columbia had no choice. They had to take 
what we were delivering. But if Columbia ever had an idea 
of what they were going to get after the Magoo, we would 
never have had the opportunity to do those films, because 

they hated every film that we made that was not Magoo . 

ZOLOTOW: The Unicorn in the Garden --that animated the 

Thurber drawings, didn't it? 

ENGEL: Yes, and we kept very strictly to the Thurber. 

ZOLOTOW: Was that the first time a thing like that had 

been done? 

ENGEL: Yes, yes. We did Thurber ' s Unicorn in the Garden , 

and we did Madeline , which was [Ludwig] Bemelmans ' s 

Madeline . And the idea when we used those people was to 

give it the lines that they used in their own drawings. 

Why destroy their drawing style? The whole idea was to 



74 



bring those drawings alive. And they were right, because 
Thurber worked with the lines, so again, you were working 
with a flat design on a flat background. 

ZOLOTOW: I think that really broke open the whole industry. 
ENGEL: Also, it broke open from a point of view of anima- 
tion, you see, because often people refer to that kind of 
animation as limited animation. They always downgrade it, 
which I think is very stupid because there's no such a thing 
as limited animation-- there ' s such a thing as limited talent, 
but not limited animation. They don't understand that the 
best performance that you can get from that medium should be 
a kind of limited gestures. Because if the animator really 
looks for performance to the stage, the gestures there are 
truly limited. There isn't a gesture on the stage that is 
not truly necessary. In other words, very seldom do you 
find a really great stage actor where he would use his hands 
or his head or any portion of his body, where he would make 
as much movement as the best animator made for Walt Disney. 
The animator at Walt Disney, or most of the animators, they 
are afraid to stop gesturing, because they are afraid that 
the damn character falls apart, because all of a "sudden he 
becomes flat. By having the flat character and designing 
flat, like we did at UPA, we didn't have to worry about that, 
and still our gestures, our "acting technique," was the 
closest to what a great actor on the stage would be doing. 



75 



ZOLOTOW: Yes, most of the ges tures--like walks — were sort 

of parallel to the picture plane at UPA, whereas in Disney — 

ENGEL: Well, he was moving all over. He was moving his 

body, and the more he moved, the better they felt that they 

had accomplished something. Whereas our feeling was that 

all that was very unnecessary. They thought they were doing 

something that was real lifelike; when in reality they were 

not lifelike. They were just something else. 

ZOLOTOW: It was a different kind of symbol. 

ENGEL: It was something else. But they were not as aware 

at Disney of the art of acting, I think, as we were at UPA. 

ZOLOTOW: Who was the great animator at UPA? 

ENGEL: The great animator at UPA, whom I also think was 

the greatest in the business, is Robert Cannon. He was 

the one-- 

ZOLOTOW: They used to call him Bo Cannon. 

ENGEL: Bobo Cannon, Bobo . He was the one who really added 

that refinement to enact a performance of this gesture. 

Because there is nothing more minimal. You watch Laurence 

Olivier on stage, and it's absolutely magic. The gestures 

are minimal. And this is what Bobo Cannon was able to do 

on film. Sometimes not even with that kind of thinking, but 

he had that instinct, that this was right. 

ZOLOTOW: What was his background? 

ENGEL: Just a person who grew up in a medium, who wanted to 



76 



be an animator. I think, if you go back, he was a tumbler. 
So that means he had a beautiful sense of timing, which was 
again innate and was part of his body. He was very keen on 
movement and very keen on aspects of comedy, but again, in 
a very elegant sense, more like Jacques Tati. Tati always 
was mimicking people. I had lunch with him once, and he 
was mimicking people. He was mimicking at you with a fork 
or a knife that he had in his hand, you know, even in the 
way he did movements. Bobo Cannon was in the same thing. 
ZOLOTOW: Where ' d he learn how to draw? 

ENGEL: Bobo? You don't learn it; you just sit at the desk 
eight, ten hours a day. None of those guys ever learned to 
draw, except that they decided to walk into the damn studio, 
and they sat there eight, ten hours a day and knew that's 
for them. 

ZOLOTOW: Did he have any exposure to classical art education? 
ENGEL: No, none, none. 

ZOLOTOW: Was he interested in painting at all? 
ENGEL: None. But I must say about Bobo that [although] he 
had none of that, he never fought it; he welcomed and 
respected it. This is why he was able to work with me and 
with Herb Klynn. He had a simpatico. He was sort of wide 
open for that, and it was beautiful. Whereas so many of 
these people, they either know it all, or they're against and 
afraid of it. Bobo, for example — this is a very strange 



77 



texture that this man was wide open for these recommenda- 
tions, for these suggestions, and he asked you. And yet he 
had none of that background. 



78 



TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE 
MAY 19, 1976 

ZOLOTOW: We are at Cal Arts, and what we really want to 
do, Jules, is find out what you are doing now. 
ENGEL: What I am doing now, you want to know? [laughter] 
I am now heading the California Institute of the Arts film 
graphics-experimentational film department and creating new 
talents for the world of films. 

ZOLOTOW: Is that an experimentational film department? 
ENGEL: It's both. It's called "film graphics dash experi- 
mentational," and then animation, because this is all those 
levels. In other words, some of the works that come out of 
here are purely of an experimental character, whereas some 
other stuff, let's say, is more conventional in character. 
And then, too, you have the other type of film, which people 
relate as film graphics, which would be, let's say, just the 
highly designed and very articulated forms and shapes that 
people accept as film graphics. Still others in the abstract 
experimental vein don't have that quality, because it's, 
let's say, more liquid, more organic, more sensuous. It's 
purely experimentational, you know. 

ZOLOTOW: What relation does this have to the traditional 
animation skills which are taught here? 

ENGEL: Well, what I am doing here, I'm interested really 
in the talent that I would say has more of the character of 

79 



the poet, the fellow who is really much more inventive, or 
the fellow who wants to go into the scene of film as an 
extension, let's say, of a painter who now wants to work in 
motion and not a question of aesthetic painting. So the conven- 
tional animation here is another department. And although 
I have people who work with characters, their approach to 
the character animation is where you invent the aspect of 
how the character moves. To be more specific, it's movement, 
but not from observation. It's movement from a point of 
view where you invent, where you create, where you make the 
movement function because you're dealing with a drawing, 
and not [because you] try to copy or imitate. That is the 
only thing that relates to conventional animation in my 
department. 

ZOLOTOW: Are you getting young people out of the painting 
department to work here? 

ENGEL: I have some people who come from the painting 
department in the school. But then I have people who come 
here from other schools, specifically because they want to 
work in experimenta tional filmmaking. These are the people 
who are art students, and they have a B.F.A. or whatever from 
other places. They come here, because they feel that here 
they have this total freedom of really working the medium 
and not [being] locked into any kind of ideologies or school 
structures . 



80 



ZOLOTOW: Do you regard this as kind of an extension of 
painting? 

ENGEL: Yes, it can be. I think of some of the people, 
like Dennis Pies, who's been here, as just that. He was 
a painter--he ' s still a painter--he ' s an excellent print- 
maker, and he came here because he wanted to get involved 
with film, but with his world of painting. And he's done 
some beautiful work. Barbara Stutting has done a few 
abstract f ilms--again, a painter. Jane Kirkwood has done 
a film like that. In fact, the best talents that I have 
are really the true artist, who looks to the film as an 
extension of the world of art. I make a difference between 
the talent that I would call studio-oriented (that's the 
conventional type) and then the other who says, "I don't 
want to work at the studio. I want to produce my own 
world. I want to make new horizons." So that's the other 
world. That's the large talent. 

ZOLOTOW: You know, you have Bruce Nauman teaching here. 
How do your students and your work relate to what's going 
on now with video art and what's been called post-object art? 
ENGEL: Well, we have video in the school, of course. So, 
if a person in here wants to jump around and try something 
new, have fun, fall in love with the medium, they see what 
happens. And, if a Bruce Nauman is here, or another artist 
of that character, what happens is that my students will go 



81 



over there. If he had any kind of a rap session, as they 
do, or they show their slides, I encourage my talent to 
definitely go over there and listen to the man. Just look 
and listen. And what you like you take in, and what you 
don't like you don't bother with. But the idea here is the 
exposure of young talent to all those other people. I mean, 
this is the best thing that I can help them--not tell them but 
just say, "Go and look, go and listen, and then work with 
that. " 

But the talent is very young; you can't expect a hell 
of a lot at this stage. Also I am a firm believer of working 
with the talent where the talent is. But the important thing 
is exposure to all the arts, both to the large talent in the 
painting world or the dance world or the music world and then 
play. And then I wait. 

ZOLOTOW: What about the relationship to photography? I 
notice that your print room has all kinds of photomechanical 
means. Are your people here getting into photographic ways 
to create new images? 

ENGEL: Well, in the sense that, again, the lab is there. 
That's where you have to take chances, but why not? I mean, 
I like this idea of introducing a talent to another field 
and seeing when there is an explosion. Or if there is an 
explosion. Or if there is some kind of blooming that will 
occur . 



82 



ZOLOTOW: Yes, because I think of that McLaren thing of the 
Pas de Deux . Remember, he did that basically photographi- 
cally. And then how did he get that movement? Was that on 
an optical printer? 
ENGEL: Optical printer, yes. 
ZOLOTOW: You have an optical printer here? 

ENGEL: We have an optical printer here. And that is really 
the heart of the more experimentational filmmaker, because 
that's where they can really make magic, go and do all the 
impossible things. I mean, you can shoot something in black 
and white, and then go on optical printer and put color in 
it. You can triple, quadruple an image. You can make fifty 
passes on one frame. I mean, that's a magic machine, and 
it's a must today for a filmmaker. In fact, the big differ- 
ence, I think, today in the talent, when they come into a 
place like that, they ask you if you have an optical printer, 
they ask you if you have an Oxberry. 

Now, years ago, and at the studios, I mean, a guy would 
come into a studio, like Hanna-Barbera or Warner's or MGM or 
Disney--! mean, for them to even ask if you have an optical 
printer, they would kick him out. [laughter] Because even 
today, most of those guys, they don't even know what the 
hell you're talking about if you talk about optical printer. 
ZOLOTOW: Do you feel you're sort of the leading edge, the 
cutting edge of the art world, sitting here? 



ENGEL: Yes, today, I think in the field of a certain 
genre of animated film, yes, we are definitely a force. We 
have created films and images and concepts on film that just 
did not exist before. So, this place is that. Of course, 
I've been very lucky, because I've had some very beautiful 
people. When I say "beautiful," I mean talents who've been 
coming my way. It's just one of those fortunate things that 
always has happened. But we are definitely a force. And 
although I use the word animation , I don't like that word. 
But at the moment I have no other word. Because "animation" 
people always relate to arts, life, and the world. 
ZOLOTOW: Why don't we just call it "film art"? 
ENGEL: "Film art" would be much better, yes. Because when 
you mention that word [ animation ] , people are so conditioned- 
ZOLOTOW: Mickey Mouse. 

ENGEL: --to what it was before, that they have no concep- 
tion--what is this all about? An interesting situation 
today is that the dance is so popular. I think probably 
the most inventive art that's happening today is taking 
place in the dance world on stage; and people will go to 
that and can enjoy this beautiful thing which deals just 
with movement. And yet, when you do that on a screen, 
people have a problem of going with it. Now, I thing maybe 
the word animation -- they look at it as animation, and they 
don't quite buy it or enjoy it. You mentioned "film art," 



84 



"art projected," or "projected art" — all these things would 
be much more apropos with that aspect of filmmaking that 
is happening here and what I am pursuing here. 
ZOLOTOW: One of the things that is happening in the world 
of so-called fine art is that there's a whole anti-art move- 
ment. They're saying the galleries are dead, paintings to 
hang on the wall are dead, easel painting is dead. And the 
peculiar thing about your activity to me is that you don't 
say that the canvas is dead, but you have certainly moved 
centuries away from the canvas into this kind of film 
activity. And I'm curious--do you think that video, TV, and 
the other kind of electronic forms are going to replace 
canvases and prints and the still images? 

ENGEL: No, I don't think it will replace it. No way. I 
think painting is going to be here. And video is going to 
be here. And film is going to be here. And sculpture is 
going to be here. And it's all going to be here, and they're 
just going to work parallel. But not going to replace one 
another. If there is a great painter who comes around 
tomorrow, or a great sculptor tomorrow, everything is back 
as big as it was yesterday. Film is just a child. This 
whole medium is just a child, such a bastard medium at the 
moment, that it cannot replace the great arts of yesterday 
in no way. 
ZOLOTOW: I'm not talking about yesterday. I'm talking 



85 



about if a vigorous young talent comes along, you know, 
will he be drawn to this medium here because it is new, 
it is exciting, it's in the twentieth century? And will 
he not be drawn to the single image of the canvas? That's 
the question. Are you, is this room going to siphon off 
the best of the kids, and the weakest of them wind up 
painting pictures? 

ENGEL: Oh, no, no. I mean the good ones will paint pictures. 
And the good ones will make films. They're not going to 
siphon off to any one avenue. I think what's happening 
more and more, that the talents are working in the different 
medias. I think that's just going to be much more the scene 
than just picking a particular avenue. It's happening now, 
and I think it's going to happen more and more, because you 
can buy equipment and it's not going to be expensive. 

And I think artists are always, no matter how serious 
and how big, what a giant they were, they still have to be 
in a character where they're playing. You've got to play, 
and if you don't play, you're finished, because that's the 
name of the game. So they are going to play with the medium 
of the canvas. But I don't think that you can walk into a 
home where you have kind of a spiritual presence, and you're 
just going to have empty walls looking at you. There's 
nothing wrong with empty walls, but I mean that's just the 
nature of man that he wants to live with things that--not 



86 



just a piece of decoration, but that has a life of it's 
own. And I think great art has a life of its own, and a 
man wants to share this piece of art with himself, you 
know. 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, I'm glad you're saying that, because for a 
long time people have been talking about what one man has 
called the industrialization of the mind. I mean, for a 
long time, every technological device was considered 
automatically a step forward, and apparently you don't 
consider film a step forward, you just consider it another-- 
ENGEL: — another form of expression, another form of art. 
And I think that's the most beautiful thing about it, that 
you can go back and forth. You go into one room, and you're 
looking at great paintings; you go into another room, and 
you're looking at great films. Of course, you don't have 
any great films to look at as yet, but at some time we will, 
because, as I said, the medium is so young. But I don't see 
that at all when people say that. I just don't understand 
them. Because when I go to Paris, I have to go to the Louvre; 
when I am in New York, I go to the Museum of Modern Art and I 
go to the Met [ropoli tan Museum of Art]. And I go and see 
films. And I go to the galleries and see new painters. I'm 
very anxious to see new sculptures or collage or whatever 
form. And I am very interested to go to the theater and see 
a dancer like Twyla Tharp or Merce Cunningham or Alvin Alley. 



87 



ZOLOTOW: That's an extraordinary attitude, and that's why 
I'm hoping to have you develop it. Because from what I 
have been hearing of--well, I'm looking at Marcel Duchamp, 
and of course, he produced almost no art. I mean, he really 
was the origin of the anti-art sentiment that motivates a lot 
of young artists today. He, in effect, said, "Why do it? 
Why make paintings for dealers to sell to rich people, and 
so on?" But you don't share that really. 

ENGEL: No, I can't share it, because when you do something, 
you do it because you have to do it. I mean, you don't tell 
a bird to stop singing. You have great stars at the opera 
house and you have Stravinsky and you have a Bach and a 
Beethoven. I mean, he still keeps on singing, and you keep 
on listening to him, and you keep enjoying it. Well, an 
artist is in the same position, if he's really something 
very special. He has no choice. He will create. He has 
to create. I mean, it's part of his chemistry. These are 
things that we can't explain, but it goes on all the time. 
And the talent that comes around me, I mean, they are coming 
around because they are interested in the medium of film. 
It doesn't mean that five or ten years from today, they stay 
with the medium, because it's possible that they just go 
back to painting or sculpture or prefer still the other arts. 
ZOLOTOW: You know, one of the things I think it would be 
good to have on record is your view of the evolution of Cal 



88 



Arts. We did not discuss how this school came about. 
ENGEL: Well, I don't know anything except when I first 
came here and they said we'd like to talk to you. But I 
have no idea how it came about before that. I know that 
when the thing was in motion-- 

ZOLOTOW: Pick it up where you got on board. When was that? 
ENGEL: Well, I was on my way to New York. I was going to 
move to New York. A dear friend of mine heard about it, 
and he said, "We don't want you to leave for New York, 
because there is a school that is going to open up, and 
maybe they can use you. " 

And they had a very dear friend whose name was Anais Nin, 
and they called--because Anais Nin evidently knew Herb Blau. 
So they told Anais Nin about me, who met me years before, 
but I don't think there was any strong remembrance. You know 
how sometimes you meet people, and then you're in limbo with 
them. 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, but you can't forget her once you meet her. 
She can forget us. [laughter] 

ENGEL: That's right. So, this friend called her, you know, 
and the next thing I know I was with her and on my way to 
Herb Blau. Then Herb Blau had me over and had a kind of a 
rough cross-examination, lasted like three hours. I never 
talked three hours in my life before, and he just kept, you 
know, talk, pumping me and pumping me. That went on, and 



89 



then I met [Robert] Corrigan. Corrigan saw the films, 
and Blau saw the films that I had done already. And then 
I met Sandy [Alexander] MacKendrick, who was then already 
on the board as the dean. And they needed somebody for 
this particular department. So, just simple as that, they 
liked the material, and the next thing I knew, I was part 
of Cal Arts. 

ZOLOTOW: You weren't involved in any of the struggles and 
the push-pulls. 

ENGEL: Before that, and all that? 

ZOLOTOW: Well, even then things got pretty complicated 
when Blau got in trouble. 

ENGEL: Oh, yes, when Blau and Corrigan-- When we first 
opened, naturally, it was very hectic, because the idea 
was very big. The concept of what the school was about 
was going to be something very spectacular. But a lot of 
people that came here really didn't know how to use that 
kind of, let's say, freedom that they had. And they just-- 
I think they just blew their tops. And they almost wrecked 
the whole joint. 

ZOLOTOW: Tell us about that period. I don't know if any- 
body's putting this into the history. 

ENGEL: Well, no, it was just what happened. We were up in 
Glendale; they rented that old, old school. 
ZOLOTOW: Convent, wasn't it? 



90 



ENGEL: Convent, some girl's Catholic high school [Villa 
Cabrini]. And so we just moved into the rooms. There was 
no furniture. You sat on the floors. You sat on boxes. 
I think, the largest problem was with the humanities. That's 
where the problem came, because I think at that time the idea 
was to go out into the street and have some kind of confron- 
tation with the local police in Glendale. And then once 
that would take place, then everybody would run back to the 
school, and then they would have something to talk about. 
I'm putting it more in a humorous way, but it turned out 
that that kind of activity constantly was that. Because 
the dancers were already dancing, the painters were painting, 
the filmmakers were already involved making film, but the 
humanities had a kind of a problem. Somehow they were so 
unstructured, because it's going to be free and you can do 
as you damn well please, you can come and go. And the next 
thing you know, we had all kinds of problems with the people 
in Glendale. And the humanities-- that was the big problem. 
They liked that idea of having this-- 

ZOLOTOW: Okay, obviously you don't want to get into the 
nitty-gritty detail. Well, some of it has been written, and 
somebody will put it on record, that period, but-- 
ENGEL: Well, probably a lot of things happened, you see, 
but myself, not ever being part of a school structure (I come 
here from a professional world), I don't even know, really. 



91 



who's doing what to whom, because I don't know the mechanics. 
Now, the other people that were in other institutions knew 
all the strings. But when you're an outsider, you come into 
a place like this, you really don't know. 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, it's like my relation to Art Center. I feel 
like an outside hired hand. 

ENGEL: You don't know. Now, once you're in this world for 
some years and you begin to know the principal, the vice- 
president, the provost, and how those things, then you begin 
to get part of it. Maybe today, I'm much more aware, you 
know, what is going on in the place. But then maybe I'm 
the kind of person that frankly, I don't give a damn about 
those things, because I have my terrain. I'm working, and 
I said, "The hell with it. If there are problems like that, 
let them solve it. I don't care." 

ZOLOTOW: Okay, let's get off the school then. The thing 
that we might explore a little more is working both in the 
painted canvas and in the film, what are the aesthetic 
similarities or differences between the two media? 
ENGEL: The similarities? Well, if you're a painter like 
I am, naturally, and I'm working in a certain characteristic 
of the canvas, which is the hard-edge, geometrical, archi- 
tectural, structural thing, naturally, I'm going to take 
some of those shapes and ideas and want to put them into 
movement. I mean, for me, that is the interesting situation. 



92 



to put the character which is on a canvas into motion. For 
me, that's very lovely. But then again, I've always been 
very involved in the world of dancing. Then the other edge 
is that I would like to put the painterly shapes, the 
painterly characteristics on, get them into motion, but 
also put the dancing world, the dance world, the Martha 
Graham world, onto graphics and into motion. So that's the 
terrain. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, the Martha Graham world is still concerned 
with storytelling, poetic storytelling as well as motion. 
Has storytelling been an interest of yours? 

ENGEL: Storytelling, when I worked on my films, has never 
been. If I worked at the studios, naturally, then it's a 
must. It's just part of it, and I participate and do it. 
But at the moment I don't quite want to get involved with 
storytelling because, frankly, there are so many people 
doing that anyway. Everybody's doing that, so that I am 
very comfortable letting them all do that, because as I 
say, everybody's doing that, everybody's telling stories. 
The problem, I think, in this whole film area now — there 
are very few people doing these other things where you're 
dealing with movement and have all the characteristics of 
a painter's approach to movement to the film, or the 
painterly approach. I think that you don't find much 
around. But storytelling — I think everybody wants to tell 
stories. 

93 



ZOLOTOW: One of the reasons I bring this up is that now, 
in the world of paintings, people are asking for a return 
to, somebody said, "pre-Courbet painting," painting that 
was involved with poetry, social ideas, storytelling. In 
fact, I think it was Bill Brice, in an interview in Art News , 
that said he felt the time had come for us to pick up previous 
things that painting used to be involved with. And painting 
was involved with poetry and storytelling, social ideas. 
And I'm just wondering whether, sitting here with this medium 
which is a natural storyteller but that's been telling jokes 
for years--the only story it's ever told has been jokes--do 
you feel that when painters move into these concerns, or pick 
them up once again, maybe film will be waiting for them, you 
know, as a new way to be a Delacroix, or a new way to be--? 
ENGEL: Well, from my corner-- [ laughter ] When Bill Brice is 
talking, he's talking from his corner. When I'm talking, 
I'm talking from my corner. And from my corner I don't see 
any such concern. Because you're not going to tell an artist 
that we, the public, are ready to reach back to pre-Courbet 
or whatever. No way. I think a talent comes, and he comes 
in his own time, and he has to work what's right for him. 
My feeling is that no such thing will happen. What will 
happen, let's say, I don't know, but I cannot see them going 
back to anything. I don't think that we're put together 
that way. We don't go back to the horse and buggy, we don't 



94 



go back to the airplane with a prop, and we don't go back 
to fountain pens, the thick, heavy, bulky fountain pens. 
I don't see any way to go back to anything. I think Bill 
Brice is dreaming, or he would like to have that happen, 
but I, from my corner, I can't see that. No way. I think 
you come along in your time, and you work as the time is 
right for it, but no way that you can go back. I think 
that you are always going to have dramatics, you've got 
to have dramatics, but the theater is going to take care 
of dramatics. I think the film is not quite really put 
together for dialogue, because I think what people still 
enjoy in film is the feeling of movement. If you start a 
film and you're going to have nothing but dialogue going on 
up there, you're going to destroy the medium. There's some- 
thing about this medium, film, and what people enjoy about 
it is the sense of movement. I don't know why people enjoy 
that, but they enjoy it. Now you can see film after film 
where the beginning is just sheer movement. Nothing happens, 
but somebody sits on a bicyle and rides. Another picture 
starts with an airplane in the sky, and it's going and going 
and going. There's another film I saw recently where it 
started with waves, and it just goes and goes and goes, and 
then pretty soon somebody comes to the beach. But it's 
interesting, all these films starting with just sheer move- 
ment. Now, what happens? There's something about that that 



95 



people feel right about. It moves, and this is what it's 
all about. Good heavy dialogue, and large meanings, T 
still prefer on the stage; that's me. I love the stage, 
and I love the fact that it happened there. Naturally, 
you've got to have dialogue on the stage, and you will 
have it. But it will have nothing to do with what took 
place yesterday. It will have nothing to do with what the 
painters did yesterday, because they were storytelling and 
stuff like that. Whatever dialogue is going to happen, it's 
going to happen, because it's going to be right--but not 
with the view because of what happened yesterday. This is 

just from my corner. No way. 

ZOLOTOW: Do you see the reintroduction of subject matter in 
painting? I mean, look at, well, we've got the photorealists 
now, and then we had the pop guys before that, turning their 
eyes on parts of the world that painters hadn't looked at 
before. Do you see that? 

ENGEL: No, I think it's just a moment. I think it seems 
like eternity because you're part of it. But if you look 
back ten or fifteen or twenty years later, you're going to 
see this thing's just like bubbles — it has just disappeared. 
I think these are just things that are brought on by galler- 
ies and brought on by people because it sells, it makes 
news — these are quickies. I don't see anything in them. 
But I accept them as part of my time. I accept them as 



96 



I accept a headline. And often they are headlines and 
nothing else. But you cannot go back. You cannot go back, 
to anything. I mean, you can look at it and enjoy it, but 
I think these are just moments, of no consequence really. 
But I still accept them as part of my life, and I think I 
understand, it has to happen. But I think whatever is 
going to happen tomorrow, it's not because you're going back 
to something yesterday, in other words. 

ZOLOTOW: I didn't do justice to that idea if I implied it 
was just a retreat. What I was trying to suggest is that 
some people in the world of painting feel that certain ideas 
that have been not of concern in the last fifty years are 
going to become of concern again, the way the Museum of 
Modern Art, with its Beaux Arts show, suggested that certain 
concerns of Beaux Arts architecture which were thrown out by 
Le Corbusier and by the organicists may be reintroduced, but 
in a new form. I phrased it badly. 
ENGEL: Yes. Okay. 

ZOLOTOW: A thing that interests me about your conviction 
that films dealing with movement and space and color and 
shape are going to be with us in the future--how do you see 
them being distributed? 

ENGEL: Well, I see them distributed in the museums. In 
other words, they will be part of the museum. In other 
words, I see [that at] every museum we're going to have a 



97 



projection room. Every museum is going to have several 
projection rooms. It's going to be just part of your 
going to a museum and seeing this projected art. I can 
also see them in galleries, where galleries will have 
small gadgets where you work with a tape--the material 
is going to be on the tape. You put it with this gadget 
into this piece of machine, and it comes onto the screen. 
It's going to be sold like you sell albums, music, in the 
same way. In fact, it probably could go on a record, the 
image could go onto the record. You just put it on and 
you have a projected image. So I see these things as part 
of, well, like you buy a lithograph, or you buy a multiple. 
I can see them as people buying it like they buy books, and 
they have a library. But people are already beginning to-- 
oh, it's another reason. People are beginning to buy films. 
Now, twenty- five years ago, it was unheard of that a young 
student could go out and buy films. Well, damn it, today, 
they're buying films. They go out today and buy early 
black and white films which cost-- 
ZOLOTOW: Sixteen [millimeter]. 

ENGEL: Yes, which cost five, eight dollars, beautiful 
things. But they are buying films today. And this is very 
new, and that's very interesting. And I've been in a lot 
of homes of people who are film buffs, like you have record 
buffs, and they have projectors. They are buying projectors. 



98 



and they have a screen. A lot of homes now, you know, 

they pull a screen down. This is the way, and it's 

happening because they are buying films. I was very 

surprised when I first began to realize that the young 

people are buying films. This never happened before. 

My God, I was over at UPA and Disney, nobody had a film. 

But today, they have films. 

ZOLOTOW: I used to rent films a lot. 

ENGEL: Or you rent. But they buy. They buy. They want 

to have it. And I think galleries definitely will have 

rooms predicated for showing films. And there's no question 

that museums--because look at the Los Angeles art museum, 

[which] has big film events where they're showing Mervyn 

LeRoy and characters like that. I mean, this is just a 

natural next step in the world of art, running films. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, you know, of course, the big revolution is 

going to be cartridge TV. Apparently within two or three 

years we're going to see some more signs of that. 

ENGEL: Yes. 

ZOLOTOW: So that's what you see. You see the museum 

playing a role and the 16 millimeter projector playing 

a role, and maybe the 8 millimeter, those cheap little 

rear projection units that are developed for 8 millimeter, 

and then the video cartridge, and you see that as the natural 

distribution--? 



99 



ENGEL: Natural distribution of these art films. For art, 

yes . 

ZOLOTOW: Well, do you ever see this integrated in the 

feature film as we know it? Do you ever see any of the new 

expressive or communicative techniques you have being 

swept up by an avant-garde director and integrated into 

feature filmmaking? 

ENGEL: Well, I think you see maybe little tiny bits, like 

2001 [ A Space Odyssey ] , you know, that one where he goes 

through that space area. 

ZOLOTOW: Doug Trumball's section, yes, the split scan. 

ENGEL: Yes, so you saw a little of it there. And then 

you see some very bad thing where this guy did Tommy -- 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, terrible. 

ENGEL: It's terrible, but that's the problem. 

ZOLOTOW: No, but I mean do you ever foresee it being done 

well? 

ENGEL: Oh, yes, oh, yes. 

ZOLOTOW: Do you ever foresee artists like your artists here--? 

ENGEL: Oh, definitely, it's a must, it's a must. It takes 

a little time, but it's a natural thing. It's going to 

happen--that ' s tomorrow. Oh, but yes, there's no question 

about it, because people are getting so conditioned to all 

kinds of imagery. Now you can begin to come in, and it's 

no problem for them to participate emotionally [with] what's 



100 



on the screen through this imagery. It's going to happen, 
it's just a question of somebody has to come along with a 
film which has all these characteristics, and people will 
love it. The problem is that people who are still running 
the film world are still so definitely locked in to what's 
been yesterday-- 
ZOLOTOW: — or last month — 

ENGEL: — or last month [laughter], that it's hard, it's 
hard to break that wall. But, oh, it's on it's way, there's 
no question about it. 

ZOLOTOW: This is the first time I thought about it, 
listening to you here, and it really does seem to me a 
possibility. 

ENGEL: Oh, yes, it's all around you, you know. Somebody 
just has to have the opportunity to do it. People today 
will buy, they'd buy it. 

ZOLOTOW: How strong is the cinema deparment here, the live- 
action cinema department? 

ENGEL: It's very strong. In fact, the cinema department 
here is the same as it was when the school first opened. 
That's the one department where all five persons — Sandy 
MacKendrick, Terry Sanders, Don Levy, Kris Malkiewicz and 
myself-- 

ZOLOTOW: Terry Sanders was here? 
ENGEL: He's been here from the beginning. 



101 



ZOLOTOW: Oh, I didn't know that. 

ENGEL: Oh, yes. [All five] have been here from the very 

beginning. And it's very strong. It's very powerful. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, maybe this new film artist that has the 

resources of live action and film art, maybe that new film 

artist is going to come out of here. 

ENGEL: You hope so. I would like to see it. But, for me, 

we have produced some fantastic talent. The new book just 

came out from the Whitney Museum [of American Art in New 

York], which works with the American Federation of Arts, 

called New American Filmmakers , you know, and in that, in 

the film-graphic area, Adam Beckett has a full page. Dennis 

Pies is in there. Pat O'Neill is in there. And myself, I 

am in there. So here is four people from Gal Arts in this 

new book called New American Filmmakers . So, I think the 

texture is right here, the ambience is right. 

ZOLOTOW: So when I asked you whether you felt you were 

at the cutting edge, you've got justifiable reason to think 

that you are. 

ENGEL: It's a shame I didn't bring the book. I just got 

it yesterday from the Whitney. But it's very powerful. 

You see, that's the difference between USC and UCLA and us. 

ZOLOTOW: Okay, let me ask you another funny thing, because 

I get a real strong feeling about this film department here. 

How do the painting students view this activity in this school? 



102 



ENGEL: Well, so far, they've been very keen. They're 
very keen, and they applaud us. The accolades are really 
plentiful from them. They've really been very good to us. 
They appreciate, and they understand. They know that this 
is something very important that's been growing here and 
happening here. So I really have the backing of other 
departments, including the dance school, because I've put 
on some film performances for the dancers, to open their 
eyes to the mechanics and the possibilities. But the 
painters in this school are very keen about us. Really 
they--you know, I'm not trying to say something that's not 
real or honest, but really they look to this place as some- 
thing very, very special. 

ZOLOTOW: Well, you know, it's a refreshing thing to hear 
because, I don't know, I talk to people and I don't get 
this kind of story. 

ENGEL: Oh, you mean about this place? 
ZOLOTOW: No, about other schools. 

ENGEL: Oh, you mean where they knock the other departments 
or something like that? 

ZOLOTOW: Yes, where there isn't this kind of feeling. 
Obviously this is a uniquely motivated and strong department 
you guys have, and its connection to the traditional painters 
and the traditional printmakers and all that seems to be 
pretty exciting and pretty good. 



103 



Well, what haven't we covered, Jules? 
ENGEL: I don't know. See, I don't come with notes, so-- 
[laughter] 

ZOLOTOW : Well, I think, you know, we have some sense of 
where you came from personally, and I think we've covered 
the relationship of yourself to the Disney world, and the 
relationship of the Disney world to what spun off. It's 
really funny, because it's almost duplicated at Cal Arts, 
because you've got a Disney department--right?--and you're 
like a spin-off department. I think we've covered your 
relationship between painting and film art as you see it. 
I think we've really covered the story. 



104 



TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE ONE 
DECEMBER 16, 1977 

WESCHLER: This is the first tape of the second series with 
Jules Engel, and we're interviewing today at the [Charles] 
Aidikoff Screening Room in Beverly Hills where we're going 
to see some of Jules 's films. Well, Jules, perhaps you can 
introduce them yourself. 

ENGEL: Yeah. Well, you're going to see about eight 
abstract films, and this will be probably a good indication 
of where we go from here as far as your questioning me on 
my intentions, where I am, where I am going. 

The first film is Train Landscape , and it's a paint- 
er's approach to filmmaking, to putting painting in motion. 
Primarily I'm working here with vertical lines. The reason 
for that is because it gives me a kind of effect that is 
not known, not discovered. So we're discovering imagery 
that comes about when you put images in motion. So the 
idea here is to discover, which often is my concept or 
approach to filmmaking, where I am at . In as much as I 
worked in the major studios where you had so much restric- 
tions, you never had any opportunity to have things happen, 
I mean, happy accidents or painterly accidents, or even 
from the point of view of a sculptor, that accident that I 
can find here. [the film starts] 



105 



These are straight lines, and you're already beginning 
to feel the strobes, something the vertical lines would 
give you, strobes. Now, this is total taboo in the stu- 
dios, but I'm interested in that aspect of it, because as a 
painter I could never get this character on canvas. But 
because you're working in time — in other words how long I 
hold a straight line on the camera, whether I hold it a 
second or two seconds or eight frames or four frames--this 
will give me the front strobes. You see a lot of strobes 
there. 

WESCHLER: And you're using color. 

ENGEL: And color also. But very little color here, 
because I've always been very interested in strong black 
and white. 

Now you begin to get really the feeling of the strobes 
here on the straight lines. And this is a form of discov- 
ery that I'm very interested in when I work in film. Very 
nice. It's wonderful stuff all through here. It's all 
strobes, and it's all geared timing. It's all strobes 
— beautiful. Fantastic. [the film concludes] 
WESCHLER: I notice that the sound score is by Stan Levine. 
Does he develop the score after you've — ? 

ENGEL: Yes. I like to finish a film, and then I have some 
session with a musician. But I always look forward for him 
to surprise me. Just as I'm looking for surprises or 



106 



accidents, I also want him to surprise me, because I could 
nowhere near have the idea that he as a musician would 
have. So I think here he did something very special. As 
my art work is still the terrain of a painter, he at the 
same time brought me a sound score that had the character 
of a poet and not just a sound score that would be some- 
thing you could pick up by going to the train stations. So 
I leave the musician open; I want to give him all the free- 
dom. Again, I hope that he'll surprise me with the kind of 
image sounds that I could never in a million years think 
of. 

WESCHLER: One other question about the general form: Do 
you work mathematically at some of the effects that are 
created, or are mathematics not at all part of it? 
ENGEL: No, I don't work mathematically, because that would 
put me in the terrain of a computer animator. No, the 
rhythm has to come from me, and it comes from my gut. 
Although this is hard-edged stuff that you've been looking 
at, I am incredibly influenced by the world of dancing. 
That is a major influence apart from painting or being a 
sculptor. And so the rhythm that I have is something maybe 
from that world that I have experienced. But I do not work 
with any kind of formulas. I think that because I'm so 
interested in the world of dancing and I had some experi- 
ence in it (but not professional or anything), I think I 



107 



just have a good sense of rhythm. Often the musicians, 
they said that when they start to work, they discovered 
there is a natural rhythm they can work to which is there. 
But I prefer to create my own rhythm and timing. But 
timing is something that — maybe because I have all those 
years of experience in the medium — but timing is something 
that you either have or you don't have. That is something 
you can't develop. You can go to dance school and learn 
all the steps, but if you don't have a body rhythm, forget 
it, you see. So I'm glad that you asked that question, 
because it's been asked before, and some people do look for 
formulas. They very specifically ask me how do I struc- 
ture, what formula or musical gimmick [do I use]. But I 
don't work that way. It's just from the gut. 
WESCHLER: One fact question: How long did it take you to 
make that particular film? 

ENGEL: Oh, I think it took me about three months to do the 
art work, and the shooting was maybe, I'd say, about 
fourteen to sixteen hours under the animation camera. But 
the art work, maybe three months, just to put it together. 
WESCHLER: Well, why don't we see the next one? 
ENGEL: Okay. The next one is Accident . We go into 
entirely different terrain. You'll see an animal running, 
and the idea here is to disturb that piece of artwork that 



108 



you see there so completely that you almost end up with 
something else. Okay. [film starts and concludes] 

Now again, you see, if I thought of maybe a sound of 
the dog making a panting sound — But then I let Carl Stone, 
the musician, I let him come up with something. I like 
what he came up with, because the other one would have been 
just a natural sound with nowhere the mystery, the magic 
that is on the screen. Because the kind of sound he came 
up with — this clung-clung — it's like breaking up a piece of 
porcelain. That's what I mean: I would like the musician 
to surprise me, and he did surprise me. 

I wanted to work with this idea of when I have a piece 
of art — and also the aspect of a smudge, you know, how when 
you smudge something that's a nice texture there. The only 
way I could make it really interesting for an onlooker is 
to have here a dog that you can relate to. It's a dog that 
is running, and it's running well, and this thing happens. 
You take him off the paper, bit by bit; and eventually all 
I had left there was the smudge or something that I 
couldn't quite get off the paper altogether. But at the 
same time I have arrived at another image, and arrived at 
this other image, again, this form, because I'm working in 
time and I'm working in movement. The aspect of the smudge 
to me was something that I can always get when I make a 
situ drawing; I leave it there, and those are nice 



109 



accidents. But here I had to go about it other ways so 
that the onlooker will have a kind of sympathy with the 
image. 

WESCHLER: It's interesting in hearing you talk that when 
one sees the title Accident one gets a certain kind of 
image, like a traffic accident, but in hearing you talk, 
you're also interested in the accidents and things that 
happen when you erase and so forth. 

ENGEL: That's right, that's what this is all about. 
Often, the interpretation is very wrong, because they make 
the associations that you said. But actually the accident 
was that of using the eraser and having the smudge happen. 
So that's a whole different terrain. 

WESCHLER: That is a very visceral image to watch hap- 
pening, and I think you relate to it on one level almost as 
a philosophical concept about mortality or so forth. But 
do you try to discourage that kind of interpretation? 
ENGEL: Yes, I would, because I had none of that in my 
head. No, it was strictly a piece of line drawing, a 
pencil line, a dark line on a piece of white paper, and 
then you take an eraser and begin to take some of it off, 
and then all those wonderful things happen. But to make it 
interesting — because you're still dealing with a medium 
where you have onlookers and a lot of people — so I had to 
give something that they can relate to. If I was doing, 



110 



let's say, this strictly for a museum or an exhibit, maybe 
I would not use a dog. But I'm still dealing in a terrain 
that I want people to get acquainted with; and the only 
way, sometimes, you can pull them in is to give them a 
little something back that they can get ahold of. 
WESCHLER: Well the dog is also an incredibly graceful 
creature, this particular dog; it reminds me of some of 
your comments about dance. 

ENGEL: Yes, that was very important, to have this beau- 
tiful piece of rhythm on the screen. 
WESCHLER: Did you take a film of a dog. 

ENGEL: No, I worked from an [Eadweard] Muybridge book. I 
studied the dog there, and I used those movements. But 
then I would exaggerate the movement, so that when you see 
it here, it's a very beautiful, rhythmic movement; and at 
the very end you just have those little black feet. 
WESCHLER: It's spectacular how long you have the image of 
the dog beyond when it's almost completely smudged. It 
continues to be there for the onlooker. 

ENGEL: Yes. Actually, when I finished the film I wish now 
that I would have gone with him a little longer; just a 
little longer. But that's the way things happen. 
WESCHLER: Well, what have you got for us next? 
ENGEL: Next is Shapes and Gestures . Now, this is a film 
where the influence of the dance world is very obvious. 



Ill 



It's pure abstraction, and it's really pure graphic choreo- 
graphy. I think the musician again came through here and 
did something very, very special, [film starts, runs, 
concludes ] 

WESCHLER: For people who didn't see that and only heard 
the tape, the images are as graceful as the music. The 
music seems to fit them perfectly. 

ENGEL: [Steve Goldman] did the job. It took him like six 
months. I had no idea that it was so long: I thought the 
film was much shorter, and I had no idea. But he used 
mostly classical instruments, a very young fellow, and I 
think he did a beautiful job of scoring it. He doesn't 
make it too cute. Sometimes he goes with the rhythm and 
sometimes he stays away from it; it's in and out. So, 
again, see, I could never have visualized this kind of a 
musical score. So that was again one of those wonderful 
things that he gave me back something that I hoped he'd do 
with the piece. Now, this is pure graphic choreography 
where the dance is very obviously influencing me, the 
movement and gestures. It's again this pure abstraction 
working with the simple lines. I'm very keen on art 
working: that it does look like a line, a drawing, it does 
look like something that you put on paper, it doesn't look 
mechanical, it's not pretty, it's not gimmicky, it's not 
clever. It's very simple, and sometimes simplicity is very 



112 



difficult for people to accept because they look for 
something that's clever. 

Now the other thing is, it's interesting for me that 
people will go to a dance concert, let's say Merce Cunning- 
ham. All he does is walk around the stage, you know, and 
he stops and walks around the stage. That's it — no music, 
no sound — and people are very comfortable with it. All 
they see is pure movement, and nobody's going to try to 
say, "What the hell does that mean: a tree walks around? 
or a pyramid?" No, it's just a man walks around and 
they're comfortable. I think what I'm trying to do here 
with these things is to have the same character. In other 
words, when you come to see this film, it's more like 
seeing a concert, an exhibit, an exhibit-concert, more than 
a film. People think of film immediately in certain ways 
because they're conditioned. But I think this fits into 
the terrain of a concert world. 

WESCHLER: Do you find that it's possible to bring this 
before dance audiences rather than film audiences? It 
seems that most people who see these are people who are 
film freaks. 

ENGEL: Well, I think this is where I am heading for. I am 
heading for that world where I can have a dance audience or 
a concert audience to see these things, or a painter. But 
that's the world that I'm working in, and this is why. 



113 



often for critics or judges, it's very difficult for them 
to put themselves into that scene. 'Cause what I should 
have rather is a dance critic come and see it. When I run 
these things for dancers, the reaction is incredible. At 
Cal Arts I often have a program of these films for the 
dance school, and it gives a lot of ideas for the dancers. 
At the same time, I needle them a little bit — "Look what I 
can do that you can't do" — but, I mean, that's just a 
friendly suggestion. But that's the terrain where this 
film and these ideas function. It's not really for what 
you call a film audience; it's something else. It's an 
extension of the dance floor; it's an extension of the 
music world; it's an extension of the painting and sculp- 
ture world. You see, it's all that and it's something of 
its own that I am doing. But it still has all those 
ingredients. But this is film, this is new, the whole 
scene is new. You know, all we can go back to is 1920, to 
Viking Eggeling and Hans Richter, and that's all. 
WESCHLER: One thing that I just wanted to note in terms of 
my own reaction was just the grace. That's the word that I 
would use for some of the movements; they were just incred- 
ibly graceful. What have you got next? 
ENGEL: The next one is called Wet Paint [actually 
Landscape ] . It's not a flicker film like some people 
relate it. It's a color-field painting in time. It's very 



114 



important: a color-field painting in time. By that I 
mean, if you go into a gallery and let's say the canvases 
are red or yellow or blue, you can walk through or you can 
stop at your own time; but what I'm doing here, I am doing 
that, but I make the time, I allow the time for each 
canvas. That gives you a clue. [film starts] Oh wait, 
this is a different film. [film concludes] 
WESCHLER: So this one was different than we thought. 
ENGEL: Yeah, it was my fault. This was Wet Paint and the 
interesting thing here is that I asked him [Nikolaj 
Bogatirev] not to follow the image too closely. I wanted 
him to have the music function with the film but almost as 
if it was coexisting. They each work on their terrain, and 
they work in themselves; but still they don't get in each 
other's way, and they help each other. So that was very 
important here, because when you relate this to Shapes and 
Gestures here the music was just playing around the place 
and yet they worked together. So that is what I asked him 
to do, but that was the only thing. Then he looked at the 
film, and he was trying to work out a music. After maybe 
about fifteen or eighteen or twenty sessions that he was 
looking at it — that was like three months later — we said, 
"Okay, let's do it." Then we made one take, ran the film, 
and he had the continuity. But also here I structured a 
very straight line, so there's a structure almost like a 



115 



building against a soft, simple image, just dabs of color, 
and a lot of texture here. I used a very soft paper 
because I wanted the paint to seep through the paper and 
maybe end up with something at the bottom, which it did. 
So that was, again, the kind of beautiful accidents and 
gestures that I look for. I [found them here] by using 
another paper where the paint had a chance to go through, 
and then I would look back and there it was, you know. It 
just happens. But it's good, and it makes this kind of a 
thing more human, you know, it has the human quality. You 
know man is at work, and it doesn't look like a piece of 
engine. 

WESCHLER: How do you relate it to Shapes and Gestures ? 
They seem in similar universes. 

ENGEL: Yeah, but in Shapes and Gestures , all the shapes 
are very hard-edged, cleaner and more geometrical. Whereas 
here the shapes are very loose, primarily, and a lot of 
shapes just happen because of the character of the paper. 
Even his music was then like that: Instead of hitting the 
notes or hitting the shapes, it was just sort of playing 
around; so it had the same character. 
WESCHLER: Which did you do first of those two? 
ENGEL: Oh, Shapes and Gestures I did way before this one. 
Often, when I do something as structured as Shapes and 
Gestures, then I have a desire to do something very loose. 



116 



you know, to loosen up. And so this is how this came 
about. 

The next one is Landscape , and that's the one I 
described earlier. [film starts, runs, concludes] Stan 
Levine scored that one also. 

WESCHLER: Why don't you talk about this? You mentioned 
the color-field quality before. 

ENGEL: It's a color-field painting in time. That means 
that what it does is to give you just so much time on each 
color, and by doing that I^ give you the right and not you 
giving me your time when you walk through my exhibit and 
you just run through or maybe stop for a painting. I did 
stop for some paintings — the red and the blue, when I give 
you a little more time to watch the color. But even if you 
walked through the gallery and saw the exhibit, you would 
still never have the interaction with the colors, how the 
red came forward an the blue moved backward, which is just 
naturally characteristic of these colors. One recedes and 
the other goes forward. 

WESCHLER: I was thinking: In this particular one, you are 
much more interested in optical effects, things that human 
beings in their perception would experience about the blues 
and the reds and how they bleed together, back and forth 
and so forth. 



117 



ENGEL: Yes, and that of course just comes about because, 
again, you're working with time. That is something that a 
painter has to consider, that when you work with film 
you're working in time. That's why it's so important, that 
word, "in time" — how long it's up on the screen, how short 
a time it's up on the screen. But you mentioned [the 
optical effect] that happened. That is something that's 
almost like a by-product. That other color that sometimes 
you see — it's not there, but you see it because — 
WESCHLER: Did you do a lot of experimenting yourself to 
develop those kinds of effects? 

ENGEL: Well, I shot a lot of colors and got some kind of 
idea how they're going to interact. Toward the end you saw 
there were very soft blues and purples where they just 
hardly move, but you saw the change. 

WESCHLER: That was with the train whistle at that point. 
ENGEL: Yes. Again, it's by shooting some tests and then 
putting the whole thing together. It's really like one 
large canvas. Again, you need the film, and you need time 
to create those secondary effects that a painter cannot get 
on a canvas. That's why this whole adventure is so ex- 
citing, because there's so much to discover in this medium, 
there's so much there that we don't know. The only way is 
by sometimes just shooting and seeing what comes back; 
then, if you want to, you can make notes, so the next time 



118 



you go into it you know what's going to happen. But the 
minute you do that, you're already restricting yourself, 
and I think we're too early in this terrain to restrict 
ourselves to anything like that. 

The next one is silent. Now, here is Fragments , just 
a pencil line. You have to watch it because sometimes it's 
so little. [film starts] The idea of what I'm doing here 
is this idea that there is space behind the canvas; I poke 
holes into the canvas, and the line disappears and comes 
out of the canvas, you see. [film is running] Sometimes I 
go off and that's, of course, a surprise, but then other 
times-- And you also repeat; you repeat like a musical 
theme repeats. Sometimes I'll do something like that, 
where I'm going to leave a little dot where he goes in, so 
those are with the holes. 

WESCHLER: Are the holes consistent on the canvas? Are 
there about eight places where they go out, or do they go 
out anywhere? 

ENGEL: Well, they're consistent as far as where I struc- 
ture them, you know, the movement. The idea is that there 
is space behind the canvas as there is space in front of 
it. The movements were working here more in a circle, but 
then also now I'm going to bring very straight. 
WESCHLER: Straight seems to read as having more velocity. 



119 



ENGEL: Yes. [film concludes] I think I'm going to leave 
it like that, not have any sound. 

WESCHLER: Is that a fairly recent one that you've done? 
ENGEL: No, it's about four years ago, one of the earlier 
ones . 



120 



TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE TWO 
DECEMBER 16, 1977 

WESCHLER: You were just talking about Fragments . You were 
going to leave it without sound. 

ENGEL: Yes, leave it without sound, because I think it's 
just an idea of this very delicate pencil line and a piece 
of white paper and at the same time working with the idea 
of puncturing the canvas with a pencil. Again, as a 
painter, I could never really do this kind of thing, but 
showing a way that there is space behind, that you can move 
into it and almost move into an incredible amount of space 
that is just there, and you can make good use of it by 
doing just that. There was a painter, a sculptor, [Lucio] 
Fontana, Italian painter, who did some wonderful things on 
a still plate or a copper plate — he would have holes in 
it — and in a sense I've been always very jealous of that. 
I wanted to do something like that here, and this was a 
perfect approach to that. But I think I'll sometime do the 
next step where I'll have the line go into the canvas and 
leave a hole there and then see what happens when the whole 
canvas is full with these holes, like he did on copper 
plates. 

WESCHLER: The silence in that piece reads like negative 
space in a way, so that it fits right in with the white of 
the canvas. 



121 



ENGEL: Yes, yes. 

Now the next one is Rumble . Now here, after these 
gentle delicate lines almost, here I go to very heavy, 
almost bombastic, kind of like a [Franz] Kline painting. 
So much work in this terrain is kind of light, and I wanted 
something really heavy and weighty, very much influenced by 
the world of dance. Even the title came from West Side 
Story — "Rumble" — and the sound took wonderful care of it 
(it almost looks, feels like logs rolling). Okay. [film 
starts, runs, concludes] 

David Shoemaker scored that, and I think, again, he 
captured the character of the shapes. He's a very good 
musician: they had six hundred applicants at Yale, and 
they only took three — he was one of the three that were 
accepted. But I think he really got hold of those shapes 
and sounds. It's a hard-edged, heavy painting. Yet at the 
same time, every once in a while I come from way back and 
come forward; so I give you the feeling that, again, there 
is space. If I had this on a canvas, it would all be on 
the surface. But by having it come from there, small 
growing to big, again, I point out the character of space 
that the film gives you. As I said before, I wanted to do 
something where the shapes would be big and heavy and bold. 
Now, interestingly, a man in France asked me, a film 
critic, "Why black?" That's a strange question, "Why 



122 



black?" "Why not?" I said. "Why not?" But you see how 
far these people are removed from that world: he wanted 
color. Well, I mean, you have black etchings, you have 
woodcuts in black, you have painters — Ad Reinhardt worked 
with black. And yet here's a film man who said, "Why 
black? It's so heavy," he said. But you see how — Because 
people are so conditioned, what film sometimes is, if you 
do something like this. And I was quite surprised, because 
he was a very bright man, and he was very disturbed. "Why 
black?" That's what I wanted to do is to have this kind of 
a weight on the screen. The shapes are painterly. They 
make good paintings, but I could never have had the 
excitement and vitality that I got there. And also 
switching from the black background to the white image or 
the white background to the black image; and letting the 
shape come from the top or sometimes from the bottom and 
going from left to right or right to left. So I created a 
kind of excitement that I could never, never get on a 
canvas. And that, again, is the magic of working in time. 
WESCHLER: Are you interested in the room in which the film 
is being shown? In this particular film, it completely 
lights up the room when it's white, and it makes it dark, 
it makes pyramids of light and so forth. Is that inter- 
esting to you? 



123 



ENGEL: Yes, that's very interesting to me. Of course, 
this one lights up the room, almost as if lights were 
turned on and off. Also, with this film, you need a large 
canvas. The other day I ran the film, and the canvas was 
that big, and I had to explain that this is a painting that 
needs forty-by-fifty, or fifty-by-fifty. So that is, 
again, a very important character of the film, that some- 
times I make the size of the screen very important. And 
here a very big canvas was important. 

WESCHLER: A naive question, as someone who's obviously not 
an artist myself: Do you find that when you're working on 
this that you are psychologically more on edge or tenser 
than when you're working on the very graceful gestural 
things? 

ENGEL: Oh, yes. When I work on the other one, that's very 
soft, very gentle, almost like listening to a piece of 
chamber music. 

WESCHLER: And you feel that way yourself afterward, after 
working that way? 
ENGEL: Yes, yes. 
WESCHLER: And this one? 

ENGEL: This is entirely different. It's a blast, and that 
I feel, because this is the only way I can really get the 
rhythm into the film. 



124 



Now, this was a film where I was asked by a very 
competent filmmaker what rhythm structure I used. And 
again you see people are so locked in to that aspect of it. 
But I cannot do that because my feeling — The way I feel 
about the rhythm structure is, I think it's so right, that 
it's all there. Now, he wanted me to give him a formula. 
Well, I don't work with formulas, you see. You make a 
gesture and the people say, "Oh, you made a gesture. What 
does it mean? Is it a tree?" "No," I say, "it's not a 
tree, it's just my hand." You see, it's as simple as that. 
Maybe it's not that simple to other persons, but for me 
it's just that simple. But the film always has a totality: 
it has a beginning, it has a middle, it builds, and then I 
like sometimes the surprise ending, which is very impor- 
tant, also it's very theatrical. But the exit and entrance 
is very important for me on the stage, and it's very 
important for me on the film — how you start out, how you 
finish. 

WESCHLER: Continuing my question of a moment ago: You say 
you don't work with formulas. To what extent do you work 
with feelings? Is that a proper category to attribute to 
your pictures, that some of them feel? 

ENGEL: It ' s a total feeling, yes. And naturally I have 
some years of experience, so I know where I want to go off. 



125 



where I want to come into the scene. Well, that is the 
experience I have. But I think it's also a natural rhythm. 
WESCHLER: The response is one of feeling, and that's 
expected. 
ENGEL: Yes. 

WESCHLER: You're not just concerned about the perceptual 
response? 

ENGEL: No. For instance, I talk to my students and I try 
to tell them, "If you come in from the right" — And they'll 
come in from the left and they'll come in from the bottom. 
It's very difficult to convey this aspect of movement in 
the right directions. They say, "What do you mean?" It 
isn't that I mean anything. That's natural. It's very 
interesting to convey these ideas to a beginner. But I 
have to work through feelings. Plus, don't forget the 
experience that I have viewing other work, the world of 
ballet, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, the Ballet Russe. 
I mean, naturally, you gain something from that world. But 
then you want to connect it to something that's your own. 
But I just assume that I have all that in me, and so it 
happens. 

The next film is a computer film, Swan . I have a 
piece of music [by Camille Saint-Saens] which is very 
popular in the dance world — [Anna] Pavlova danced that — and 
I've always wanted to do something with this music. And I 



126 



had this piece of computer film for ten years before I 
decided what I wanted to do with it. In other words, I 
have done a lot of editing here. But what I'm doing here, 
I want to put an end to those computer films which are 
beginning to look like TV titles, where they are so cute 
and so clever that I think they are a total bore. What I 
want to do with the computer is to cut that concept into 
ribbons. Because in the painting world, those things would 
never exist; they would look banal. They would make 
magazine covers, but they would never exist as a piece of 
art. So what you see here is none of that. [film starts, 
runs, ends] 

See, this is computer material. Naturally, I always 
wanted to do something with that piece of music. I had a 
lot of material for about ten years, and about a year ago 
or so all of a sudden I said "I know what I'll do with 
this." So I edit and cut. Almost out of this idea of — It 
hasn't been around much, hasn't been out too much. But 
every time I see a computer film, everything is the same on 
both sides, they're always glued together, and God, that 
stuff just drives me crazy, because it's getting to look so 
much like television titles. That's the danger with 
computer film and people doing it. They begin to look like 
industrial graphics. At the Academy last year, I was 
sitting next to this man; we were looking at some feature 



127 



pictures, and some computer stuff came on as the beginning. 
He said to me, "Oh, a television title." You see how 
horrible that is. It was a feature, had nothing to do with 
television, but he already equated this kind of texture 
with television titles and television commercials. You see 
this damned thing all over in television, and they're 
killing this. What I have here is irregular lines, just 
moving. There is no such a feeling that they're all the 
same on both sides. A lot of these people when they work 
with computers, they work with engineers who have abso- 
lutely no idea what the hell they're doing. Most of these 
people are not artists, they're really not. They just get 
on this gadget — and naturally when you have a circle here 
and a circle there and they're working at the same time, 
they're so taken, so seduced with that stuff. It's so cute 
and it's lovely. But as a piece of art when you look at 
that stuff — well, it's very bad stuff, it's incredibly bad 
stuff, very banal. So this, I almost did it out of anger. 
Because it has some lovely stuff here: nothing works 
cutely, it's never cute, the image. 

WESCHLER: Do you want to do more with computers? Is 
computer technology developing so that there are more 
interesting things to do? 

ENGEL: I will do something. I have something else I'm 
working on which is a lot nicer [ Three Arctic Flowers ] . It 



128 



will be very popular, I think. I think I have a lovely 
piano score behind it, and it's not too long. I think 
it'll work. But I like this because of the lack of regular 
lines. It's an irregular line which very seldom you see. 
When you go to see a computer, just watch: It's always the 
same at the bottom and the [top], at the corners; and it's 
just a very banal piece of design. 

WESCHLER: I want to ask you about the line in this movie: 
it's beads of light. Is that because the computer was only 
capable of that, or did you choose to have the beads? 
ENGEL: No, it's only doing that. And of course the blue 
that comes out of that, that just happens, but it's very 
nice. So, again, I grabbed that because, as I say, it is 
very nice. This is again that something that happens; and 
when I find things like that, I'm very happy with them, 
because those are unexpected things. It's all there: It's 
like an incredible mine that's full of surprises. Unless 
you're aware of that, you almost throw out the surprises; 
whereas I don't throw out the surprises because I think 
that's a most wonderful thing. This is that constant 
search and discovery that I have. See, when a scientist 
goes from A to B, that's from A to B. Then the next person 
takes the B, and he goes from B to C, and then he goes from 
C to D. But there's an incredible progression somehow. 
Whereas in art you don't discover things; you don't even 



129 



know it's there. It's not like taking Picasso, and then I 
go from there to something else. No, you move into the 
field, and all of a sudden you discover something. I think 
film has that, but a lot of people are afraid of that, they 
don't know, and the surprise is something that they think 
is a mistake. It's not a mistake — it's there. 
WESCHLER: Sure, you realize it's there. 

ENGEL: Yes. It's there, yes! So that's the terrain that 
I'm very much involved in. 

WESCHLER: What is this last thing you're going to show us? 
ENGEL: Now, the last thing is my first live-action film 
which won the Jean Vigo award, won half a dozen awards. It 
was done in 1965. It's called Coaraze . Coaraze is the 
name of a French village. This is moving from the world of 
animation into the world of live-action. I had a wonderful 
time, and also I used a lot of still photography here (some 
of it you'll be aware of; some of it, not). But it got a 
lot of wonderful presence. It got such a good presence 
that none of the art houses would show it. They threw me 
out of major studios with this film. Ingmar Bergman saw 
the film, and it ran with his film in Paris. Even there 
the people complained to the management — the sound was too 
this, the editing was too fast. We're talking 1965, of an 
art house in Paris, and it raised hell. But it's such a 
gentle film. You'll see, it's nothing like it. But I was 



130 



able to incorporate a lot of ideas coming in from the 

animation field, knowing how to use the animation camera 

and still photos, and again, as a painter who sees things 

differently. It's a very gentle film. [film starts]. 

That's the highest award you get in France. 

WESCHLER: Prix Jean Vigo. 

ENGEL: Yes, and it beat out all the features that year. 

[film is running] There's a still. Still. . . still. . . 

still. 

WESCHLER: Did you take the photographs? 

ENGEL: I took all the still shots, set up the camera, and 

I directed. These are all still photos put together a 

certain way. [film ends] 

That was quite a film because it is shot in 35 and 15 
with all the stills. But it is incredible that in Paris, 
you know — Bergman liked the film, and he wanted to do it 
with his feature. Actually the sound on the 35 is much 
more brittle at the end, and [the people in the audience] 
would complain to the management, they complained about the 
editing to the management, too fast and things like that, 
and this film never could get a playdate anyplace. It was 
in the hand of a distributor in London — couldn't — 

But see, coming in from animation and having all that 
experience in painting, I was able to see images and shapes 
and sizes. Then it's a question of editing, of putting 



131 



together the structure and the film in a way that a little 
thing like that becomes very potent. A lot of people have 
seen this film. But I could never get a job with that, by 
the way; I was turned down every place. 
WESCHLER: Really! 

ENGEL: Oh yes, because they said, "You're too arty" and 
things like that. But this has a lot of wonderful things 
in that, you know, and if you're working in a large film, 
there's that kind of thinking. There's a lot of things 
that have never been touched in live-action when you're 
dealing with content, that have never been touched. And 
then when you go in with something like that, they say, 
"You're too arty," and stuff like that, or "It has good 
black and white." Again, I think it's a question of the 
eye, how I'm able to see things. Those doors: I would cut 
those photos and put the photos together in a way that 
works. People don't know, look at it and don't realize 
it's stills. They don't even realize that some of those 
images were cut down and put together to give you the nice 
feeling of panning down the doorways. That man in the 
foreground, you know, who was sitting — there's a bench, and 
he's at the other end, too. I come up here, and it's the 
same man and the same picture, in all three shots. 
WESCHLER: Or the shot that suddenly seems like it's a 
photograph and then the cat suddenly walks in. 



132 



ENGEL: And then the cat walks in. That's a sur- 
prise — that's very beautiful, to do those things. 
WESCHLER: Are the scenes of children fighting acted for 
you? 

ENGEL: They were just playing for us. They were just 
having a hell of a good time. I mean, that's the biggest 
thing to happen in that little place, you know, a couple of 
people with cameras. 

WESCHLER: Exactly who was it? Was it you and another 
cameraman? 

ENGEL: Oh, I had a camera. I had a 35 Eclair cameraman. 
In fact the whole fight was a hand-held 35. I'm not a 
photographer really. I don't know a damned thing about 
cameras, but they rented a camera for me. But, you know, 
if you have an eye, you see things; it doesn't matter, 
because you know when you look through, that the 
composition is all there. If you spend your life composing 
pictures, well, it's a hell of a lot easier to pick up a 
camera and all, because it's all there and it's just a 
question of getting those images. And then, of course, the 
next important thing is when you get into editing, how you 
juxtapose images. And again, that's timing, it's rhythm. 
It's something that you can learn, you can acquire; but 
some of it, you have to come with something to do that. 



133 



This was, as I say, the first time I shot anything in live- 
action. 

WESCHLER: To what extent was this a purely formal exer- 
cise, and to what extent was it trying to say something 
about that specific town of Coaraze? 

ENGEL: No, it was commissioned by the mayor of the vil- 
lage, because this village is very important. All the 
poets come there. Once a year, all the poets of Europe 
come to this little place Coaraze. He wanted a film to be 
done which had a poetic presence, not a documentary, so 
also he can show that when the poets come to that place, to 
see what a filmmaker will do with that place. 
WESCHLER: And how did the mayor feel about the film? 
ENGEL: Oh, incredible, because it won the Jean Vigo award. 
This picture knocked out every feature that year; no 
feature film got the Vigo award. It got the Arnaud, got, 
oh, about a half a dozen important French awards. So 
naturally it was a beautiful thing. But the important 
thing was that the filmmaker would come and find in this 
place what you poets find in the place. 
WESCHLER: Did you ever show it to the people in the 
village and get their reaction? 

ENGEL: Oh no, I had to leave. He did, and of course that 
was a big thing. I mean, of them even being photographed, 
it was a big thing. So he ended up with something very 



134 



special, very special, and very, very happy. But the 
interesting thing about this film, it's unique. I think 
the film is unique, especially to us. But everyplace I 
went in this country they wouldn't even show it. They 
wouldn't even show this film in this country in art houses, 
'cause they said, "Aw, that's for beatniks." 
WESCHLER: Really? [laughter] 
ENGEL: Yeah. Incredible, isn't it? 
WESCHLER: Is it being able to get shown more now? 
ENGEL: No. I show it once in a while when I have a 
retrospective or things like that. Otherwise, I haven't. 
WESCHLER: It doesn't go out on its own. 

ENGEL: No. And yet, you know, the reaction to that has 
been beautiful from people. But, you take that into a 
commercial house which is an art house, and — So today I 
won't even try it. But I show it once in a while. So 
that's the only exposure that this might ever get. But, 
you see, if you work in terrain where you work with 
graphics, where you really have to sweat for composition 
and shapes, then when you pick up a live-action camera, you 
should be able to do wonderful things. 
WESCHLER: Just naturally. 

ENGEL: Because it's there: you don't have to draw, you 
don't have to design it. So it's a nice thing, especially 
on something like that where tons of textures, the 



135 



beautiful textures, the old people and the young kids, the 
other people who were there, some are working, you know. 
The whole place is about that big. I had to do a tremen- 
dous amount of improvising with those steps, because that's 
what you get out of the place when you get there. You're 
always walking up steps, between walls that are this wide. 
So I wanted to capture that, and the only way I could was 
to take the steps and put them together, you know — maybe 
they're that long — put it under the animation camera and 
shoot it with the animation camera with the movements, you 
see. But I had to improvise all those ideas because the 
whole place was nothing. There was very little to it, 
except two old people who were very interesting. But I 
don't like to do that with old people, because I don't like 
to trespass on their property, which is their body. I 
don't like to do that. But just a couple of shots, the 
hands. But I resent it when people make pictures going 
into old people's homes and stuff like that. I resent 
that: they have no right to do that, just because they're 
old and they don't know what to say about it. I think it's 
nuts. That's a personal opinion, I don't think it's fair 
to trespass like that. But just a few shots. 
WESCHLER: Well, I think that does it for today. We'll 
talk some more about your films when we talk to you next 
week. 



136 



ENGEL: Yes, but I think now you have something to go with 



137 



TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE ONE 
DECEMBER 22, 1977 

WESCHLER: Jules, we said we'd talk today about Oskar 
Fischinger. On your previous interview, you mentioned 
some of your work at Disney, but today you might talk 
specifically about your relationship with Oskar Fischinger. 
ENGEL: Well, it was an interesting situation working at 
Disney. Especially lately when I hear people talk about 
their experiences, people who've been there thirty or 
forty years — I was only there three and a half-- But they 
generally have the comment that you cannot work at the 
Disney studio without it influencing your life or leaving 
some imprint on your life. I used that comment recently 
at an Annie banquet where we honor the best talents in 
animation, and I did say that for me it was the same thing-- 
it did touch my life. And that incident was meeting Oskar 
Fischinger at the Disney studio. At that time I was already 
beginning to do very small, pure abstract paintings, 
nonobjective paintings — it would classify today as a hard- 
edge, geometrical painting. But because of the circum- 
stances at the place, I had to hide the material, because 
there was absolutely no simpatico at the Disney studio for 
such art. And then I heard that Oskar Fischinger was 
working there on Fantasia , he was working on the Bach 
Toccata and Fugue. I heard about him from reputation. So 

138 



we met, and for the first time I had found somebody at 

the Disney studio that was simpatico to my work. 

WESCHLER: How did you meet? Can you describe it? 

ENGEL: I met him during a lunch session in the foyer at 

the Disney studio. I knew what he looked like, and I 

just walked up to him and introduced myself. He was a 

chubby--almost, not quite, not as heavy, but almost a 

little bit like an [Alfred] Hitchcock type of a body, a 

pink and white face, totally bald — a shiny, pink, bald 

head and a tiny nose--and always wore a black suit or a 

dark blue-black shirt, and always wore a hat, a black hat. 

It sounds ominous now, I guess, but it wasn't ominous, 

because his whole appearance was always very casual, and 

it was almost a natural kind of presence. What struck 

me immediately about Oskar was that he was very gentle, 

very gentle in his way of speaking. And a little confused-- 

because I think of the environment that he was in at Disney. 

In fact, I always remember him saying, "This is a strange 

place; there are no artists in this studio, only cartoonists." 

That was, of course, the problem, that he had no relation 

with anyone because they didn't understand him and he 

disliked their cute and very banal approach to graphics 

or art. 

WESCHLER: How actually did they feel about him? Did they 

think he was a quack off in his corner, or--? 



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ENGEL: I think, if I would sum up the environment, they 

would think he was a quack or a weirdy or something very 

strange. I'll explain it in a little more detail when it 

comes to me, because then I think I can make more of a 

point. But the problem, of course, also was that Oskar 

had a very difficult time with the language at that time, 

a very difficult time. The man who was the head of the 

department, or let's say that section of Fantasia , the 

Bach Toccata and Fugue, was a Japanese man; and although 

he spoke well, I think that was a little with the language. 

And Oskar had a total problem. Also, Oskar ' s concepts and 

ideas were so far out from their ideas that there was 

absolutely no relationship, no simpatico at all for him. 

So after so many months--! think he stayed there six months-- 

he came to me and quit. He told me he will leave the place 

because he just doesn't find anything to his liking. But, 

of course, he did not find the place artistically stimulating, 

there's nothing of that sort in the environment. But 

to me he was very nice, very good. He looked at my work, 

he encouraged me. In fact, he was the first person who 

had seen anything of mine and had a good word to say, 

almost to the point where he introduced me to a very important 

dealer from Europe whose name was Mirendorf . Mirendorf 

was very important, almost in the history of this country, 

because he brought Braque, Picasso, and Klee material over 



140 



for the first time, really, in volume to New York. So 
Oskar knew that Mirendorf was coming out to Los Angeles, 
and he immediately told me he'd pick me up. So I met 
Mirendorf, and I showed him my early work. What stays 
with me very specifically, because I had — these were small 
paintings about eight by ten by twelve — and on one I used 
air brushes. I remember Mirendorf was very taken with 
that texture quality of the airbrush. I at the same time 
was very surprised, almost to the point of being unpleasant, 
because everybody at the Disney studio was using airbrush 
for backgrounds on Fantasia. I thought it was incredibly 
commercial and phony and all that, but here was Mirendorf, 
who evidently had never seen texture of airbrush on painting, 
and he was taken with me. He remarked how interesting and 
unique, and of course I couldn't understand, because I 
disliked the airbrush (I only used it more to fill up the 
space, you know) . But the point is that that was Oskar, 
you see. He did help, he gave a hand immediately because 
he was so interested in that terrain of art. 

The other friend of Oskar, and also the right arm of 
Mirendorf, was Galka Scheyer. Now Galka Scheyer gave 
that collection of Klee and some Picasso and some Braques 
to the Pasadena Museum. Galka Scheyer then stayed out here 
in California; I don't know, really, her activities, but 
at least she felt this was like a new world for that. 



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Because there was nothing like that, around here. Now 

remember, we're talking around 1940 to 1941. So Oskar and 

myself, we became very good friends, and we visited galleries 

together. And, oh, then I also had an exhibit, we had a 

three-man exhibit, Oskar Fischinger, myself, and Herb 

Klynn at the Clara Grossman Gallery on Hollywood Boulevard 

right across from the Egyptian movie house. It was a tiny 

little place in the back there, and that was Clara Grossman, 

the first really true avant-garde kind of a gallery. 

WESCHLER: Who was she? 

ENGEL: Clara Grossman owned the gallery; she ran the 

gallery; that was her gallery. 

WESCHLER: Do you know anything about her? 

ENGEL: She was there for years, and she'd run films. She 

had films showing in the evenings of very avant-garde 

filmmaking, and she had everything that you'd consider today 

new, in the world of painting, in the world of filmmaking. 

That was a kind of a hub. Imagine that: on Hollywood 

Boulevard, across from the Egyptian. 

WESCHLER: Was Clara Grossman independently wealthy? 

ENGEL: I don't know if she was independently wealthy. I 

don't think she was independently wealthy, because I think 

she also lived in a portion of the gallery somewhere. I 

think she had to go somewhere to take baths. There was no 

bathroom there, you know. I ran into her lately — I think 



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four or five years ago — I ran into her in New York; she 
was well. But she would be very important if ever it comes 
to dig really in depth into Los Angeles art. Because she 
was on the scene and showed everything that was new in art 
work. So that's where Fischinger, myself and Herb Klynn 
had a three-man exhibit. 

After that I was with Oskar a great deal, and I used 
to go over to his house. I could never understand how he 
could work with about four flaming redheads crawling all 
over the place, over him, under him, on the table — and 
there was Oskar just sitting around and doing his work or 
talking to me. Nothing got to him. I was nervous and 
fidgety, but it didn't bother Oskar: he just went on as if 
there was nothing happening. And at that time he was showing 
me all kinds of ideas — two paintings, for instance, with a 
point, a circle on the one, a circle on the other, and if 
you stood in the middle of the painting back about fifteen 
or twenty feet, then the images would merge into one image. 
Oskar was an incredible innovator of that world, but he 
never flaunted his knowledge; he almost kept it back, 
unless he knew you well and knew that you were on the same 
world of painting that he was involved in. 

WESCHLER: During this period, was he mainly doing painting 
rather than film? 
ENGEL: At that time he was still working on film, but at 



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the same time he was now getting into painting. In fact, 
I would say he's one of the few filmmakers where things 
went in the reverse. Generally it is a painter who turns 
into a filmmaker, when you look at [Norman] McLaren, Jordan 
Belson, Robert Breer or myself who are coming from the 
world of painters into film. With Oskar Fischinger, it was 
in reverse: he became a painter, and I would say the last 
ten years of his life or so, he did nothing but painting. 
WESCHLER: VJas that out of despair about filmmaking and how 
he couldn't get his films shown? 

ENGEL: I think it probably was out of despair, because 
I have a feeling that Oskar was in the wrong environment. 
I think Los Angeles was very wrong for Oskar. He came 
because Paramount [studios] brought him; Orson Welles had 
contact with him. But I think Oskar should have been in 
New York, because he would have been appreciated, and I 
think a lot of good things would have happened. So out of 
despair, I think, he became a painter. But he would have 
become a painter anyway, because he loved painting, and I 
really think he did very fine work. I think he was really 
one of the early and the first optical painters, although 
not specifically that he wanted to do optical printing, but 
some of it would fall into that category, and he did it 
quite early. I would say maybe the work was a little uneven, 
but he was innovative enough, still, that he was there, he 



144 



was there very, very early. So he became a painter, and 
that is the way Oskar ' s life came to an end. But I also 
feel that he almost died with a broken heart, because of the 
loneliness that this city never recognized [him] or never 
gave him any accolades. In fact, in the last five or eight 
years, Oskar is really coming into his own, world wide; they 
have big exhibits of his films and of his art all over the 
world, and Los Angeles still hasn't given this man a truly 
first-class exhibit, both of painting and of his films. 
WESCHLER: Isn't that unusual, because L.A. has begun to 
have more interest in art, in other areas, and in animation 
also, at Cal Arts, for example? 

ENGEL : Yes, but you have to think about in the fifties. 
There wasn't much in this city that was really much simpatico 
with that kind of work. Okay, you did it, like he did it, 
but there was no audience, and he was still looked on as a 
weirdy. If he walked into any of the animation studios, 
they would have absolutely no use for this man's talent. 
And so you have to tie him up with something what's happening 
today, you know, when a painter makes films, a filmmaker 
paints, and the whole scene is different. But we're back 
twenty years, and nothing, nothing happened then. 
WESCHLER: Do you think he will be rediscovered in Los Angeles, 
in the near future? 
ENGEL: Well, I think Los Angeles should do something for 



145 



him. Now, I understand Filmex 78 will have a show. But 

I remember I tried very hard at some of the museums — I'm 

going back again fifteen years when I was promoting for him 

for an exhibit and film showing — and I couldn't get to first 

base anyplace in this city, just couldn't do a damn thing for 

Oskar. 

WESCHLER: Was animation looked down upon by museums at 

that time? Was that a problem also, that it fell between 

and betwixt art and film? 

ENGEL: Yeah, I think animation was looked down on as a 

medium of expression. But of course here we're dealing with 

abstract film which, even animated or not animated, is 

still an extension of painting. We're dealing with a painting 

in motion. I think today it's a little more understood 

than at that time, you see. 

But to go back to Disney, for a moment, and explain the 
situation why Oskar had such a difficult time at Disney, 
because I had the same problem at that time. I mean the 
word abstract was a word I couldn't use in a story session. 
Often my work was hidden before they came into the 
room, because the way I used color and figures was not 
really a conventional approach. So this is the only way I 
can tell you what the environment was at the place. And 
that environment really hasn't changed. It's the same 
today. It's the same in all the studios. You'll probably 



146 



find one or two maybe in each studio that has a different 
head; but most of the talent there is all in the groove 
of the Disney approach, or a Donald Duck, or of Road Runner. 
That's the terrain of the head. 

WESCHLER: Do you think there are more people who are kind 
of like you today, in other words, who are interested in 
abstract things but for business reasons have to keep it to 
themselves while they're working in those studios? Or do 
you think it really is a case where the animators and the 
studios just don't relate to--? 

ENGEL: No, it's nothing to do with business, because 
if you do this work, you do it for yourself, on your own 
time. But animators, I would say about 99^5 per cent 
absolutely have no use for anything except what happens in 
a strictly animated cartoon. They have no eye or desire 
to experience anything else. It was true yesterday, and it 
is the same today. They still look at you as a weirdy; the 
whole environment is absolutely, totally anti-art. 
WESCHLER: Why do you suppose that is? What kind of person 
goes into animation that that becomes the case? 
ENGEL: Well, sometime back the person who came to that 
field was mostly a very, very poor cartoonist, typically 
a cartoonist who is just that and doesn't like anything 
else. Today you have better talents coming into the field, 
much better talents, but they're still a talent who would 



147 



prefer calendar art to anything else. And the heads of the 

studios are even worse than that. They have absolutely no 

use for anything except a very trivial kind of calendar 

art. It's the character of these people: they gag people, 

they deal with gags. There's nothing wrong with that, because 

you could still have another part to you, but they just don't 

have it. And it's still the same today. 

WESCHLER: Do you think it will change? 

ENGEL: Oh, I don't think so. I really don't think so, 

because it hasn't changed the last thirty-five years, so 

it would have a difficult time. I've met a lot of new 

people who are coming into that field, and they haven't 

changed. We'll get more into that later. 

WESCHLER: Some other questions about Oskar Fischinger: 

What became of his paintings after he died? 

ENGEL: Oh, his paintings are in the hands of his wife, 

Elfriede. Elfriede has all that material. She has a very 

large collection of paintings. I would say she has about 

a couple of hundred paintings in the house. So it's all 

there; it's all there for somebody to discover it. 

WESCHLER: Well, maybe somebody reading this will go looking. 

ENGEL: Yeah. And it's interesting, because he should be 

exhibited. Very few people know about him, and the only 

person outside of myself, who has written about Oskar is 

his biographer. Dr. Bill Moritz , Almost everything that is 



148 



written about Fischinger today is written by Dr. Bill 
Moritz. So that's the only outlet that Fischinger has to 
this world today, unless maybe a few words from me. 
WESCHLER: [laughter] Well, do you have anything else you 
want to say about him? Maybe we can go on. We were talking 
a minute ago about the people entering animation today. 
I wanted to spend some time with you today and talk about 
your own activities as teacher and some of your senses 
of some of your students. You might first begin by talking 
about the world you live in at Cal Arts, what your day-to-day 
teaching activity is at Cal Arts. 

ENGEL: Well, California Institute of the Arts is a unique 
place because it combines all the arts; it combines theater, 
dancing, music, filmmaking, design, some terrain of 
architectural design; it also includes, of course, photography, 
So it combines all the arts, and it functions more as a 
large atelier than anything with school. It doesn't relate 
to what you call classrooms; it relates only to the activity 
of each artist. There are huge rooms where the dancers 
are rehearsing, a big stage for the actors performing, 
beautiful ateliers for the painters where they are painting, 
and very fine equipment for the filmmakers, both the live- 
action filmmakers and for animation. For the animation 
we have the very best Oxberry camera and an optical printer. 
But by having all the arts now for the first time the talent 



149 



that comes into animation in my room have a chance to see 
all the other arts function. So the exposure is there. 
But I do think that today the talent that comes into 
animation are much more aware of the arts. Maybe it's just 
my area — I don't know if this would be true for the studio 
when a fellow walks in there — but in my terrain, when they 
come to me, they are very aware of all the other arts. 
Now, I'm involved at the school with what I call "film 
graphics and experimental animation," but that takes in 
everything, and character animation also, but not in a 
style of what you call a "Disney approach." Here the 
character animator works on a style that he or she devised. 
Let's say, it's a more sophisticated approach, more like a 
Bengelman or a Steich or the Frenchman like Sine would 
work. So the character animation is not the tradition, but 
it's completely against tradition. Then I have the others 
where you have the painter working in a medium; and now the 
work becomes an extension of the painter, because he wants 
to work with movement. Then I would have dance students. 
Kathy Rose, for instance, was a dance student before, and 
her interest came from the dance world. But they're all 
interested in film and what they can put on film, but not 
in the way that people have been conditioned when you 
mention animation. 
WESCHLER: Some general questions about the program before 



150 



we get into specific students or specific stories: First 
of all, just generally, how large is it? Are you the only 
professor in it, or are there other professors? 
ENGEL: No, in my terrain I am the only one. I do have one 
person come in on Mondays for one day [Jack Hannah] . He will 
work with the talents that are more apt to be involved 
with character animation, again because his background 
would help them. But I'm the only one, and I have forty- 
five full-time students with me, and my approach is to 
work with them as one to one. I don't have classes, but I 
do have seven-days-a-week and twenty-f our-hours-a-day open 
studio, because the best experience is doing this work. 
You can have all the theory, all the logic, all the 
dialogue, but if you don't get to that board and you don't 
really do it, nothing happens. 

I mentioned earlier that the talent today that come 
to me are different. I used to refer to the studios as 
drawing-board-oriented, but these people are not really 
drawing-board-oriented. They come in and they ask you if 
you have Oxberry; they ask you if you have an optical 
printer. Now, that never happened before. No studio, no 
matter who the talent was, no matter how big a talent he is 
as an animator, he cannot go in to a camera room and shoot 
anything. These people almost start at the other end: They 
know the camera inside out and upside down; they know what 



151 



it gives them and what they don't have to do because the 
camera will do it for them. So the type of talent that comes 
in, you see, it's different. Some might never get to the 
drawing board because they work under the camera, you see: 
Whatever they do, it's under the camera, not necessarily 
at the drawing board. 

Also, these people are not afraid to say, "I am going 
to see Martha Graham tomorrow," or "I'm going to see 
Merce Cunningham." They talk about it. Years ago if I 
said that I went to see Martha Graham at the studios, they 
would have said, "What the hell is that?" So this is a 
large change in the character of these talents that I 
have. 

Also, what's important here, these are not necessarily 
the people that fit into small grooves; I know one very 
fine talent of mine who said, "I don't want to be known 
as an animator; I want to be known as a filmmaker." I 
used that word filmmaker some time ago at a studio, and 
I remember when I left he asked another animator what Jules 
means, what he means by filmmaker . Because, see, I 
didn't categorize him as a layout man or animator or 
assistant animator or story man — I used the word filmmaker . 
That means he does the whole thing. And he didn't know 
what it meant, see. So these people want to be known as 
filmmakers . 



152 



And as I say, they're not afraid to go to a dance 
concert and talk about it, or to go to an exhibit, or to 
go and hear a concert. See, years ago I would have been 
called an egghead, a queer, a weirdy, an intellectual snob, 
all that sort of thing, if I talked about that. But that's 
the change of the young talent today. 

WESCHLER: It's also one of the wonderful things about 
Cal Arts, that it does give a place where people can be 
themselves in a way they couldn't have had a place before. 
Why don't you talk about some specifics? 
ENGEL: Oh, that's Irene coming down the steps. [tape 
recorder turned off] 

WESCHLER: Okay. Returning to talking about Cal Arts, 
generally, one of the things that's interesting about Cal 
Arts in the context of our discussion is that it was in 
effect founded by Disney. In particular, I suspect 
Disney interests on the board of trustees and so forth 
were particularly interested in generating an animation 
department that would have fit what they thought was 
animation. Have you had static from Disney interests on 
the kind of animation that does take place at Cal Arts? 
ENGEL: When the Disney [people] put the money up, they 
had two men, Robert Corrigan and Herb Blau, and they had the 
total rights to choose, pick, and do as they damn well 
pleased to put the staff of Cal Arts together. Now, when 



153 



I was hired, I was recommended by Anais Nin. In fact, 
she took me over to Herb Blau and introduced me to Herb 
Blau as a possible talent for the film department. Herb 
was very nice, and they saw the films I had; and then 
Sandy [Alexander] MacKendrick who was then already there 
picked as the dean for the film school saw my film; and 
they said, "Okay." What they were looking for at that time 
was a person who had a larger experience than just an 
animator. My experience was because I came to them as a 
painter who had been exhibiting, a sculptor, a printmaker, 
a designer, a graphic designer, and I had films both in 
live-action and animation, plus all the years of experience 
I had at the studios, and also a quality of taste that they 
saw in the work. So on that terrain they hired me. Now 
the Disney people accepted, but they anticipated an 
animation studio that would furnish them with new talents. 
However, that was not in my head to do that, nor in the 
head of Herb Blau or of Corrigan at that time. So problems 
came big and heavy from other talents from the industry who 
all of a sudden looked upon us and said, "What the hell is 
he doing in a job like that?" And of course then came the 
bigger explosion from the Disney studio. I had big meetings 
with them: they had me at the other end of the table, and 
they were discussing my presence and what I do with the 
talent and how I prepare them for the Disney needs. 



154 



WESCHLER: Who is the they in this situation? 
ENGEL: Well, at one time I had at the table Frank Thomas, 
Ward Kimball, Mark Davis, Milt Milcall, Willie Ryderman, 
and some people I don't remember, oh, Layat from Story. 
The questions came at me like arrows, and I had to answer 
them. And then other people — I don't want to mention names-- 
from the industry in town were almost jealous that I had 
that job. But they didn't understand what the thinking 
of the school was, the philosophy. 

What happened, and what changed the whole situation, 
was that after the second year, while the school was in 
motion and everything was still rumbling, I was beginning 
to produce or get product or films from the talent, from 
my talent, that gave us, immediately, international recog- 
nition. And by the third year we were sweeping every award 
that there was, student awards all over the world. In fact, 
I would say that by the end of the year we established the 
Cal Arts animation-film graphics department as the most 
important new unit that was producing films of this caliber 
and of this consequence. When that happened — and it 
happened big and fast — well, all of a sudden the Disney 
people said, "Well, wait a minute. The only person who's 
getting recognition for Cal Arts is Jules Engel!" I mean, 
I was all over the paper pages, newspapers, all over. I 
was getting Cal Arts incredible presence. No one [else] 



155 



was doing that. So that slowed them down, and they came 
to a conclusion, finally, which happened two years ago, 
that they're going to leave me alone and they're going to 
set up a unit — completely separate from Cal Arts practically, 
although it's in the building — sponsored by Disney (again, 
Disney money aside from the original budget) ; and they 
now have what I call a trade school to fit their need, 
[phone rings; tape recorder turned off] 

WESCHLER: You were just talking about how they have a trade 
school of their own now. 

ENGEL: I consider it a trade school because there it's 
something where they teach the talent-- No, no, I think 
this time I'm gonna use the word student. They teach 
the student how to do. Now, when you teach a student how 
to do things, it becomes a how- to-do school. That also 
means that the student never has a chance to reveal him- 
self because he's already following in the footsteps of 
whatever the father, grandfather, or the grandmother did 
well- In other words, they are being fed printed, digested, 
worked-over kind of material. But it suits their needs, 
and they're happy because now Cal Arts has a place where 
they can train for their need. Meanwhile, they give me 
complete freedom because my talents are now really known 
for this department, and they come in to me from all over 
the world. 



156 



WESCHLER: Do any of the students from the trade school — 
what we'll call "the trade school" — migrate over to your 
program? 

ENGEL: Now, that's very interesting, because that happens. 
In fact, this year I think I have five of them coming over 
into my program; they're quitting the Disney program. That 
only happened to me once, when one of my students — he was 
so unhappy with me because he said, "Everybody's an artist 
around here and everybody has ideas." It didn't fit his 
personality. He was a student: he wanted to be put in 
the first or second or third row, and you had to tell him, 
"We're going to do this today and we're going to do that 
tomorrow." Also, some of these people are so taken with 
the environment like a Disney environment or a Warner 
Brothers or a Paramount that they want to be part of that 
so they can say, "Yeah, I belong." So I had one in eight 
years that I actually recommended to move over. 
WESCHLER: Do you work in concert with the people in the 
trade school? Are you friends with the people who are 
teaching there? Or are they completely separate? 
ENGEL: As far as myself is concerned, I am friends, we 
are friends. But the students there, they really separate 
themselves. Also there is this feeling of "They don't 
know what the hell we're doing"; and again, "This is art 
or something; it doesn't take any talent" — as they would 



157 



refer to it. It's again that same head that is in the 
studios; they are already what I call anti-art. They're 
already that, and they all seem to be cut out of little 
square boxes. They almost look like students; they behave 
like students. Whereas my talents, they are more individual; 
they are more each on his own or her own. They're more 
outgoing, and they are more the heads. You see, I have 
forty-five students: that's forty-five heads. Each head 
is different. The Disney people have fifty of them, but 
it's one head, one head, because what you tell this one, 
it goes into all the others. I cannot do that, because 
my talents wouldn't allow that. Each one is so different 
that I have to know each person individually, know where 
they're going, where they want to go, know where they're 
at. That's another thing: to know where the talent is, 
where he's at, and work with that. Don't push him, don't 
shove him, but go with that as his or her rhythm will allow. 
Because different people have different needs, they have 
different rhythms, they have different desires, and you 
can't put them in a box. So I gotta know each person from 
the very beginning, know what they're doing. 

And also I let them play. I think they should play. 
Especially if they're gonna be there four years, the first 
year I almost let them loose. That is, let's say, there is 
basic instruction, but even if a talent doesn't pay attention 



158 



to it and wants to do something else, I let him do something 
else, because I think that aspect of just playing and 
finding out and having fun, having kind of joy, I think 
it's very important, it's very healthy. And besides, what's 
the rush? I mean, where are you going? Your lifespan 
is twenty-five years longer today than it was thirty or 
forty years ago, so you're going to get there anyway, you 
know. So I believe in this playing and not restricting 
the beginner. 

WESCHLER: Speaking generally, then what happens after 
the first year of playing? 

ENGEL: Generally, by that time I also begin to really 
see what's in this person, 'cause I have a lot of dialogue 
with each person. So then I begin to, let's say, push 
a little harder, or now I begin to set up a direction, 
because now I'm beginning to find out. But also, it's 
possible that after that year that person will say, "It's 
not for me," which happens, because a person finds now that 
it's much more difficult, it's much more tedious, it takes 
a lot more than he realized animation is all about. So, 
let the person find out. It's important for me to find out 
that this person either means business or after a year he 
finds out "It's not for me" — and that's also natural. 
I also point this out to them at the beginning: "If you 
don't feel like continuing this medium, that's perfectly 



159 



all right with me. Don't feel unpleasant about it. Just 
let me know when you're ready." But then you have the other 
talent who comes in, and he and she just starts from the 
first day. Then, of course, you have the painters with 
their art background. We have, again, a talk. I might 
give them some very basic introduction to animation, very 
basic. But then the minute he has that, he already wants 
to move. I say, "Move. Move, and when you need help, 
holler." 

WESCHLER: Do you get more rigorous at any point down the 
line, the second and third year? 

ENGEL: No, no, I never get that way unless I find that 
a talent or this person is really just there because he 
has no other place to go or he finds it a pleasant environ- 
ment. Then I might get very heavy. But I don't find 
that, because these people who are coming there, they're 
already coming there because they want to do something. 
But once the person is on a project, because he or she wants 
to do this, then I get a little behind it in a way of, 
"Okay, let's do it" — in other words, "let's not stop in 
the middle; now we're going to go through with this." 
It happened last year with one fellow: he told me at the 
end of the year, he says, "Jules, if it wasn't for you, I 

would have never finished the project." Because I almost 
embarrassed him to the point that he finished the product 

160 



more for me than for himself. Now, this is just my way 
of doing things . 

WESCHLER: How do you embarrass someone? 

ENGEL: Well, by, "Ooh, Bob! How are you doing? How are 
you doing? Hey, are we going to see anything next week, 
huh? We should see something by the week later; oh, 
there's no question that we should see something by then. 
Okay, next Wednesday? Okay." So comes next Wednesday, 
he either comes in or [he says,] "I'm not quite ready but 
by Friday I am ready." But by this time I also know his 
character, I know his personality, I know that he will work 
that way. I don't care how he works, but I want to see 
that thing finished. So then he said he was so happy 
that he finished this piece, and he knew he finished it 
because I would stop him in the hall — never heavy, just 
easy, you know, almost jovial. He was happy because he'd 
finished the work; he was happy because he finished it. I 
think this is the only thing that is important: Don't 
let them get into the habit of not finishing, because even 
if it's not well done, it's completed — and by completed, 
he had to go through certain phases, he learned. So you 
learn during the process. It isn't where I would tell 
them all about things, how to do this. No, no, you just 
go into it and when you get to the point where you don't 
know what to do, then you ask. When you ask then, you'll 



161 



never forget it, you never forget it, you see. 

But again — You see, there is Dennis Pies. Now, he 
was a painter, and he did four films in two years, and he 
has international reputation. Dennis Pies has international 
reputation: he just won first prize at Cing e Kreek; he 
is in [Robert Russett and Cecile Starr's] Experimental 
Animation, the book. You see, again, I knew him, and I 
knew that I don't have to push with Dennis. He would 
disappear for a month or six weeks--well, I'd see him in 
the halls--but then he'd say, "Jules, I have something to 
show you." So he'll show me, we go over that stuff. I 
might make recommendation, let's say, it's too long, it's 
too short, add to it, go on, build on with this, this is 
a good point, make it important, make this the heart of 
the film. Then he disappears for another six weeks; and 
then he comes back. And I say, "Now let's look at it." 
But then I know him: I don't have to worry about him. 

I keep an eye on everybody, and I know where they're 
at. And I work with them where they're at. 



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TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE TWO 
DECEMBER 22, 1977 

WESCHLER: A couple of questions just generally about the 
environment there: Do the students work with each other 
as well? 

ENGEL: The students will work with each other from a point 
of view of helping the other one out in a certain area, but 
not necessarily where they would be working two or three 
on one film. Almost all my talents are one-man/one-film. 
But he might need somebody to help him in camera so he 
can go maybe a little faster, and then the person will 
come in. Let's say he does something on cell work that 
needs to be painted; he'll ask people to help. I create 
a very good ambience in the room: they are all friends, 
they help each other. There is absolutely no competition, 
that "I make better films than you do," or "What is this 
thing that you're doing, that's weird!" — no such thing. 
I make them understand. 

WESCHLER: How do you do that? Because that does become 
a problem in other schools where students become competitive, 
ENGEL: I have absolutely never had that problem, but 
never. And this is going into the eighth year. I have now 
about forty-five people; and some come in during the year, 
so they're new; and they sometimes don't even speak the 
language as well as the other because one chap is from 

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Belgium, and another one from Persia, from Yugoslavia. 
But these things I can't really answer. It's just maybe the 
way I am put together. But there's absolutely no problem, 
no competition, and they're incredibly helpful to each 
other. Sometimes a talent is so good, for instance, on 
something that's mechanical, or technical, really technical, 
a camera. You notice very soon that this person's very 
good at that. So I just send Bob to Jane: I say, "Ask 
her, 'cause she knows a hell of a lot about this." I make 
them know each other; it's very important that they get 
to know each other. I would say, "Ask John Armstrong; he's 
very good at that stuff." So you see, now this stranger 
goes to John Armstrong, and the next thing they're sitting 
there talking and they know each other. I make sure that 
it's mixed well, and the best way to make them mix well 
is by knowing that the other person knows things that 
he'll need, and even I would recommend him or her. Now 
they depend on each other, immediately. 

Also, when dailies come in, I always call in every- 
body: "We got a piece of work from Niki Kaftan, dailies; 
come and look at it." They come in, look, but I don't ask 
for them to be critical. That I don't ask, because if 
they want to talk to each other when I'm not there on that 
level, it's okay. I don't want it to happen in front of 
me, because I don't want to contradict people in the group. 



164 



So when I see a piece of new dailies, then I generally say, 
"Okay, Niki , you wait." Everybody clears, and now what I 
have to say about her film, I'll say it to her, and then 
I can be, let's say, as critical as I want to be. But I 
would never do that in front of other students, never. 
The only thing I do in front of other students is praise 
one--that I'll do. But I will never be critical in front 
of another student. 

WESCHLER: How critical are you directly to a person's 
face? 

ENGEL: I can be very critical but not to the point where — 
In other words, this is a very sensitive area. You have 
to be very aware that you have a lot more experience than 
this chap has, or this young girl has, a lot more. So it's 
very important — for instance, when she or he comes to you 
and says, "I have a great idea, it's terrific," and naturally 
this idea you've done twenty years ago — it's very important 
for you not to say that you did this. That's critical. 
Don't say, "I did this twenty years ago," or, "Oh I had 
an idea like that but I didn't finish it." No, you say, 
"That's great, go ahead." 

You also have to stop at a certain phase of being 
critical because there's nothing wrong sometimes for a very 
young talent to fall down. If she or he insists, I say, 
"Okay, you go ahead." Because I'd rather have that person 



165 



go through that experience and see it for herself — it's 
not working — than have me stopping her and she'll never 
know. And that happened many times. Now, I had a fellow 
there who was a painter, a very good painter, had a lot of 
exhibits, and he did a film. It's a very exquisite film, 
incredibly complicated. But there was an area in motion 
where two shapes are crisscrossing. He'd already gone into 
the work; he didn't check anything out; and it's not really — 
it's not good. Okay. Now, I saw the film finished — 
months of work. He's very happy about it, very happy 
about it. I don't like this part, but if I criticize him 
now, [then] I don't understand his feelings, I don't under- 
stand his moods, you're creating a generation gap, you see. 
No. The film has done extremely well for him. But some 
time later he showed that film to somebody, and he came to 
me and said, "So-and-so was commenting upon it; gee, that 
was a very good comment he made". I said, "Do you want 
me to tell you what he said?" He said, yeah. "He said to 
you that that particular shape coming over across, that 
particular shape is not working." I said to him, "Now listen 
to me, if I had told you then, what would you have done?" 
He said, "Nothing". Now it was very honest for him to say 
that if I'd said to him then, "Don't do that," he would 
have still done that, you see. So that's where you have 
to understand where you stop being critical. Because if they 



166 



were that good, they wouldn't be there. So the mistakes 
they make, frankly, they are not even mistakes, it's just 
a question of experience. As I said to one fellow, "You 
don't make mistakes. Later, when you're professional, 
when you're good, then you make mistakes. But now, there 
are no mistakes. This is all just trial and error; it's 
a process, and you're doing it, and that's no problem. 
There's no mistakes". 

WESCHLER: When do you think a student — I mean, other 
than just say at the end of four years — when does a student 
graduate from you? How does a student know he's finished 
an education with you? 

ENGEL : Well, there are several terrains there. I have 
to know whether he wants to get a job in a commercial 
studio, okay? If I know that, then I make sure, whatever 
he does for himself or herself, that if he walks into a 
studio, he can also do, let's say, what an apprentice 
would, a beginner, an assistant animator or an in-betweener . 
So those qualities this person will know: how to sit at 
the desk and start as an apprentice at the studio. So he 
has a running start. He also knows camera better than 
anybody at the studio where he's gonna work, because he 
does all his shooting himself, he does all his negative 
cutting, he does A-B roll, he does everything. So he knows 
all that. But that doesn't mean you're going to get a 



167 



job, because you have to sit at the desk and go through 
a certain process which is, let's say, in-betweening, or 
assistant animation, or animation, okay? I make sure that 
he can sit at the desk and do in-between, or move into 
assistant, which happens. They've all been working. 
They're doing work right now, commercial jobs on the side. 
And that's good. I encourage that. I encourage that a 
hundred percent. If you get a job, take it, because if you 
do a one-minute spot for a commercial studio and you do 
all the work, I consider that as work. Because, that's 
what's it's going to be all about, isn't it? So I encourage 
all of that. In fact, I call up and get jobs for them. 
And then of course you have a few that maybe even that will 
be difficult for them; they might know all the techniques, 
they know all the mechanics, they can do everything, but 
they're still not going to be, really, of large consequence. 
Then you have the other half who do not want to go to the 
studios; they're not studio-oriented. They are the painters 
like the Dennis Pies. Now, there's Kathy Rose, an exquisite, 
also internationally known — like Adam Beckett is inter- 
nationally known. These people are not student artists. 
These are talent today who are changing the terrain. She 
did four films in two years. 
WESCHLER: Kathy Rose? 
ENGEL: Kathy Rose. And again you're dealing with a talent 



168 



that's not a studio talent. Yet she works with character. 
She puts six fingers on a hand, six! In studios you have 
three; she has six fingers. Now, it would have been easier 
for me to say to Kathy, "Maybe four; not six." But I don't 
do that, because this is the way she does it. She works 
as an open end: she starts and then she just moves on. 
There's no traditional approach to it, nothing. But in 
the process she did pick up all those other things that you 
should know about, you see. So again, you're dealing with 
this character who is not studio-oriented. She has no 
desire to go in a studio--she 'd rather as a secretary — 
but she's gonna make her films. Dennis Pies today is 
teaching and making films. 
WESCHLER: What is Kathy Rose doing? 

ENGEL : Kathy Rose is finishing a film where she got an 
AFI [American Film Institute] grant of $7,500; Eric Durst 
got an AFI grant of $7,500. So these are not studio- 
oriented talent. These are almost the cream of talent 
because they are bringing new visions to the film medium 
as an art form. 

So this sort of thing, I got to know from the beginning, 
and then I go with them, where they are going. So if I 
know it's a studio direction, he wants a job, then I make 
sure that he'll know what he has to know to go in there. 
But that's why I say it's one-to-one, because this job 



169 



doesn't end at five o'clock, you know. It's like a 
coach: when you work with a team of athletes, you sit 
on the sideline and you sweat, too. 

The only thing is that I never touch their work. I 
never touch their work. And I don't let them give me any 
credit. Now two persons did in eight years: somehow they 
didn't hear me. They said, "Special thanks to Jules Engel," 
or, "Mentor, Jules Engel." I don't want them to do that, 
and I tell them at the very beginning of the year, because 
if the work is that good, they don't need no mentor's 
name up there, or anybody's name. It also brings the work 
down, you know, because I don't touch their work, I never 
touch it. I talk about it, I look at it, I recommend if 
they ask, you know, but I never touch anything. And I 
don't want them ever to give credit to their instructors 
because I think it's not fair. You don't see a painting 
of students in a painting school that is signed, "Joe 
Doe — thank you, Braque . " [laughter] You don't do that, so 
why should a film student give all his credits, like a 
kind of film board, with everybody's name on it. It 
destroys it; it brings it down. How do I know that this 
person made the film? So this is just again one of those 
eccentricities of mine. 

WESCHLER: Let's talk about some of your students in 
specifics. Why don't you tell us stories about some of the 



170 



more important students or yours? 

ENGEL: Well, Kathy Rose. Kathy Rose came in, and she 
came in with a dance background, some live-action film, 
but primarily the films she had were predicated on more of a 
dance rhythm, and animation is what she wanted to do. She 
saw the work of Yoji Kuri, the Japanese animator, and that 
became her God. She worked straight ahead, in other words 
starting with the drawing and letting it evolve into other 
circumstances. i had to be very careful with her, because 
there was a lot there as a person, there was a lot there as 
an individual, and she had a weird, way-out approach to 
drawing. She had nothing to do with a classical approach; 
it was very personal, almost grotesque, but right for her. 
And it was consistent, it was utterly consistent. So I 
let her work, and I came nearer: we talked. At the very 
beginning, you see, that person must find confidence in 
you, and it's very easy at the beginning for you to destroy 
confidence by an attitude of you know everything and they know 
from nothing, while you've done everything, you know. And 
that's wrong. In fact, I think some of the not- to-do 
things are when the teacher would come up and say, "In the 
old days we used to do that." That's a horrible thing. Or 
he used to say, "When I was your age" or, "I did that 
years ago." These are just a few. So anyway I had to 
watch her, watch not to approach her on any of these 



171 



terrains. And pretty soon she began to listen and maybe 
make some small changes. And after five or six months 
went by, she said to me one day, "You know, Jules, you did 
something that I wouldn't even let my father do, or my 
brother." And that was very interesting for her to say 
that. She said, "No one is ever able to do that." In other 
words, that I make her change just a little bit and go 
certain ways which made her work easier without her losing 
an ounce of her natural talent. She said that, and I 
thought that was very nice for her to say that, because 
this is a strong person. Her father is a very fine photo- 
grapher in New York and is in all the magazines; and her 
brother was teaching at Pratt, animation and things like 
that. But again, it's that touch, you know, that you have, 
and you know. And she turned into a beautiful filmmaker 
with four films, and she has won the Golden Hugo in the 
Chicago International. She recently was sole juror of one 
of the very big animation festivals. In fact she gave 
me a piece of paper here, and I would say that since she 
started, today she has won around thirty awards — thirty 
awards! And she's already being asked to jury animation 
shows. So this is one talent. 

And then you have a man like Dennis Pies, who came in 
a painter, with very refined work, very refined painting, 
very delicate material. I had no idea where he would go, 

172 



but all of a sudden he began to show me things, because 
his talent to pick up an Oxberry and optical printer was 
so fast. He came in from Arizona, and he said to me one 
day, "It's marvelous, marvelous, because I see so many 
things that I've never seen; I didn't know such things 
existed!" Now, see, the exposure is very important for 
some of these people to see. And he again won awards 
immediately, and he's now teaching somewhere near San 
Francisco, experimental animation. So now you have a 
combination of a very fine painter, a very fine printmaker 
who now is into film, and he's changing, again, the terrain 
of film. 

Another man was Adam Beckett. Now Adam already had 
fan clubs two years ago with his films, already had fan 
clubs all over. Last couple of years he spent on Star Wars ; 
he was doing special effects. He was a fanatic--not at 
the drawing board but more on the optical printer. The 
optical printer became his pencil. And he does things 
that are incredible things, what you see on the screen, 
what this man does. 

WESCHLER: What was he responsible for in Star Wars ? 
ENGEL: In Star Wars he was hired very early to invent 
images or innovative ideas. Now I think they did use some 
of it. But he was also very unhappy, on the other hand, 
'cause a lot of his image inventions were not used, because 

173 



they pulled back a little bit. [George] Lucas pulled back, 
and it's silly, because they could have used his stuff and 
it would have been even bigger as far as the visual-- 
WESCHLER: Do you know of any in particular that were left 
out? 

ENGEL: A lot of explosions and things that he had images 
for, and then they went back to regular explosions, you see. 
But here is a man who, really, has brought new ideas and 
imagery into film; I mean, he just opened up an whole 
world of images. He's going to be very interesting to 
follow, because he ' s a very complicated human being. He's 
very unsettled with himself; he's unsettled of knowing 
which way to go: "Should I stay in the commercial, follow 
up Star Wars ?" The other problem when you get on a picture 
like Star Wars and you see a two-hour film and all this 
excitement, well, all of a sudden, you with your six or ten 
minutes film begin to feel small, insignificant. So now 
you want to do something big, and that can be very destructive, 
So there is a fight sometimes in a person like this, of 
where to go, which way to move, because "I feel small." 
I can point out paintings by Vermeer , or Chardin, you know, 
I show little things — Look at Goya's etchings, I mean 
these are masterpieces, look at Cezanne's! But it's very 
difficult for them at this stage to buy that idea that it 
doesn't have to be an hour or two-hour film. It's also a 



174 



very American experience. In Europe you can do a three- 
or four-minute film, and you can be a giant. But, you see, 
when you live in Hollywood, you're nothing, you're nothing 
unless you make a feature film. I think it gets to some 
of these people if they get into that field, if they get 
too close to it. 

WESCHLER: Do you think that for animators, for young 
animators, it would be better to get out of Los Angeles? 
ENGEL: Well, I think — See, the point is this, Ren. Kathy 
Rose is in New York; Eric Durst was in Boston, is in New 
York; Dennis Pies is in San Francisco; Adam Beckett is here. 
So I really feel that some of it has to come from you as a 
human being. I am there, and I can make recommendations 
again. I'll say, "Go to New York." But some of it has to 
come from them. You can't be a father. It's very important 
when they finish films that they should feel everything in 
that film is theirs. They should never feel, no matter 
how much you help, they should never feel that you helped 
or you did it, never. When that film is finished, they 
should have a feeling it was theirs, they did it, so that 
then they can break away from you. I make efforts in that 
respect that they should not feel that they have to rely 
on me or on a teacher. 

WESCHLER: But just abstractly, do you think it would be 
better for them not to be in Los Angeles, in Hollywood? 



175 



ENGEL: I think for some, yes, it would be better. I think 

the best environment for them would be New York, where 

they have access to the museums and to concerts more 

than they have out here, 'cause they need that. I can only 

expose them to a certain amount, because the environment 

at Cal Arts will expose them to a certain amount, a great 

deal of dancing, because it takes place in the hall; and 

there are exhibits. Or let's say I might show films of 

Leger or Man Ray or Picabia. Before I show the films, I 

run color slides of these people. I say, "Here is Leger; 

now here is his paintings; now he made the Ballet Mecanique ." 

I don't do it with a heavy hand. I say, "Let's look at 

this stuff." And they look at it. Now, what I'm doing, 

I'm putting this in front of them; some will go to the 

library and will get a book on Leger, okay? Or the other 

day, there was this young girl and her painting was not-- 

She was very young and there was nothing really gelling. I 

said, "Oh, you know, I have an idea: I think you would like 

Sonia Delaunay, because I see you have such a wonderful 

color terrain, and I think you'll have simpatico with her". 

So I go and I check the book out from the library and give 

it to her, a big thick book on Sonia Delaunay, and I say, 

"Now look at it. There's nothing wrong, you're not copying, 

but learn from the masters. If you're gonna learn color, you're 

not going to be an interior decorator, you're not going to 



176 



do textiles, it's got to come from your gut. So the best 

way to learn it is looking at the work of a good colorist; 

so that's in a Delaunay, there's Picasso, there's Braque, 

there's Bonnard, check these things." See what I'm doing 

now, I gently bring this thing. She is working on a thing 

and I can see already that there is a better influence, and 

it's natural, you know. You're not copying, it's a natural 

influence, and that influence is good, and you're going to 

come to yours later. So this is the way I bring things 

to them, because we don't have a Museum of Modern Art or 

a Whitney or a Metropolitan where you could tell them, "Hey, 

go over and see the Cezanne show." Wouldn't that be wonderful 

to see the Cezanne show? We can't go, you know. So this 

is another approach. 

WESCHLER: All you have is the library. 

I didn't get a sense of Adam Beckett as a student 
when you were talking a while ago about him. 
ENGEL: Adam Beckett was a very difficult student. 
WESCHLER: How so? 

ENGEL: Well, in the first place he was six foot three, 
weighed, I don't know, 18 pounds, had a good body, but 
huge, huge, big. I think he was very, let's say, selfish 
and not trusting. I think he had the idea of a school 
environment, that maybe I was going to come in with heavy 
hands. So my big problem was again to make him feel that I 



177 



am with him and not against him. So it was so important 
at the beginning when he did a lot of to say, "Adam, this 
is good, this is good stuff; stay with it; it's good." As 
time went on, he relaxed with me and he was more comfortable 
in the environment. He's good. 

It's interesting, because recently we were on a panel 
together. In fact, I recommended for him to be on a panel. 
People had to talk about themselves, their background and 
all that, and I was the chairman. He never mentioned 
that he went to Cal Arts. Now, I'm at the other end of the 
table, and I wouldn't mention it either, because I did not 
want to embarrass him. See, I was so aware that he did 
not say Cal Arts and that's where he made his reputation 
from that place. He never said that. I was aware, but I 
would not say it, because I realized he doesn't want to be 
tied to any place. He's out there, and we'll see where 
he goes from now. 

But he was one of those talents that was very difficult, 
because he had so much going for him, and yet he lacked 
a lot of taste, taste-quality. That could come later; 
that could happen later. So, you see, I don't want to make 
a big deal out of it. But he'll do things. Like he did 
this one thing called Flash Flows , which is very good--it's 
incredible. It's a piece of pornography, but it's one of 
the most well photographed films, incredible imagery that 



178 



he evolves. Then he did another one that again he goes 
into that terrain. But it's very bad, because the damn 
thing is too long and stuff like that. I can tell him, 
"Don't do that, it's too goddamn long, it's vulgar." But 
I let him go because all these things that are not quite 
right now, he'll find out much later. All I would do now 
at this stage, I would just disorient our relationship 
and create a kind of a wedge. It's very unnecessary to 
create that because talent is good, and what's not there 
today will be there tomorrow. I only push just so far, and 
then I leave it alone, because it's nothing wrong to fall 
down. There's nothing wrong with that. 

It's silly when a teacher--oh I hate this word, 
teacher - -when a mentor begins "Don't do that, it's 
wrong." Forget it! Forget it. I mean, you have so much 
time to improve and make changes. It's not that important; 
the important thing is the process and the important thing 
is to see a continuity. Like some of these people, like 
Kathy Rose has a film coming back, Dennis Pies has a film 
back, Joyce Borenstein was another beautiful talent who 
has a film coming back. It means they've done it after 
they left; that is a good feeling, that's nice. Because 
the others will disappear into the bowels of the industry: 
you're never going to hear of them. But at least we were 
able to put them on their feet. A lot of them have nice 



179 



jobs. A lot of them never thought they could do anything, 
but they're working, that's an accomplishment. 
WESCHLER: Are there any other particular students who 
you'd like to mention? You mentioned Eric Durst? 
ENGEL: Eric Durst, I mentioned, and Joyce Borenstein, 
who is a beautiful student, a young girl, and oh, Paul 
DeMeier from Belgium, who won the Academy Award, the $1,000 
grant from the Academy. Mark Kirkland, the year before 
won the $1,000 Academy award. Niki Kaftan, a beautiful 
talent. Rick Blanchard, a very fine talent who's up in 
San Francisco, going to have a show up at Pacific [Film] 
Archives. These few at the moment come up. 

Oh! John Armstrong. Here is an interesting situation: 
John Armstrong comes in with a piece of Barbie doll, a 
Barbie doll with a Texas hat on. Well, I accepted him, but 
I said, "Jesus, what's going to happen here?" But sometimes 
I take these chances. I have to, you know. So he came in 
with that. He was a very quiet fellow, and he's working 
around, and pretty soon I see him lying, putting paper all 
over the floor on one end of the room ('cause I have a 
huge room). He's taking paint and squeeqee-ing it onto the 
cells like that, and he's doing all kinds of stuff like 
that. He did a beautiful film, first film. So I said to 
him after a couple of months, I said, "John, I don't 
understand you. You came in with a Barbie doll; what are 



180 



you doing, Jackson Pollock? How come?" He said, "Jules, 
I've never been exposed to anything like this in all my 
life." Contemporary art, he's never seen anything, nothing. 
The guy is incredible; he's been doing beautiful stuff. 
But this new material he's working on, it should be just 
magic. He has a wonderful head for technical, for camera, 
he knows more about camera than anybody else (again, I 
say, "Go to John Armstrong; he can help you") . His simple 
answer was, "I have never been exposed to anything like 
this." See how important that is, the exposure. So I 
took him on with Barbie dolls, and he's turning out to be 
something very, very special. This is again that terrain 
that you have to sometimes go beyond just what you see in 
a portfolio. 

WESCHLER: How do you accept people or reject them? Do they 
apply? How many people apply in ratio to how many are 
finally accepted? 

ENGEL: I don't know. I think I had something like eighty 
applying, and I accepted maybe twenty, twenty-five. Now, 
it's possible — There was a fellow, Steve Holland, who's 
a cartoonist, eighteen years old. He sent his stuff in, 
and I didn't like it: there was nothing there. But then 
I got a letter from him this long, and he's writing and 
drawing cartoons all over the damned place, [claps his 
hands] and then he writes another one. I say, if a fellow 



181 



wants it that badly, I got to accept him. So I sent a note 
to him, you know, and oh God his parents are happy. 
He's eighteen years old; he's a cartoonist, literally. He's 
a talented cartoonist; it's natural; you can't learn 
cartooning; it's either there or it's not there. I'm not 
a cartoonist; I couldn't do it. Nice fellow: turned out 
to be a beautiful human being, good guy, and he's doing 
nice work. He's going to be very good. There's no question 
that in the industry he'll be very good. And you see, by 
exposing him to all the other things — yet he's working on 
his own terrain where I want him to stay — his sensibilities, 
his head, everything, is getting better. Whatever he does, 
it will be better, because of the exposure. But the 
important thing is he's a good person, a lovely person. 
We needed a caricature of the president [of the Institute] . 
I got him a photo. He did one, and I didn't quite like it; 
then he makes another one, no problem. He took it upstairs, 
and they saw it upstairs — the president, secretary and all 
that — and they didn't like it: it doesn't look like 
[Robert] Fitzpatrick. They give him another photo. He 
goes down, he does another drawing. This time it was 
beautiful. He went back three times, did the whole damn 
thing over, and now the portrait drawing and the caricature 
was perfect. Now, you see, this is helping him. He didn't 
say, "No," or "Don't tell me, this is good." But now 



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you've helped him, because on several levels it came back 
to him. He was able to go back and he changed it every 
time. That's very important. 

WESCHLER: In general, what are the criteria that you use 
in accepting people? 

ENGEL: Well, when they apply, if the drawings are there, 
that's already it. If they send the film, that's already 
it. If it's photograph and I like the photograph — Like 
Jody Meier has photographs that she sent, good photographs 
that deal with dancers, but a very unique kind of photo- 
graphy, not just a photo. I like the quality of the 
thinking, so I accept that. If sometimes a person wants 
to talk to me, and there's nothing but "I want to do 
animation"-- If I talk to that person and it's a question 
of the dialogue and I get something from that person, I'll 
accept that person. 

I accepted Darla Sal, who was twenty-seven years old — 
he was already a full doctor and he was a film buff. He 
wants to make animated films, but he's already in live- 
action: he's gonna do a live-action film which he'll do 
at the hospital. He sent in something; it wasn't much, but 
I said to myself, he's twenty-seven, he ' s a doctor already; 
and I talked to him (he had experience, he went to Yale 
drama school or something); so I accepted him. And yet it 
isn't a question of drawing, 'cause he doesn't really draw. 



183 



But he did a film using a figure out of that white stuff, 
white foam, a ball in a womb and a child comes out of that, 
begins to walk. You should see that walk, the way it moves, 
because he knows the body: it stands up, starts to walk 
and becomes a dancer, and then from a dancer he gets older 
and older, old age, crumpled, and back into this ball. I'm 
telling you, he's never touched a piece of film, he's never 
touched anything! If I show it to you, you won't believe 
it. Now you see, I say if a person like that wants to do 
it, why not? I got a room, I have a big enough room. He's 
a doctor, you know; he can pitch in at the school; he 
helped kids with their health, you know. He was practically 
on call. [laughter] A nice person, Darla Sal. I accepted 
him. 

So, see, I do that. That's me, you see. Another person 
would turn a lot of these people down, and that would be a 
mistake, because there's a lot of wonderful things there 
which doesn't quite show. 'Cause I had that experience 
in the professional field: At UPA, I needed somebody to do 
_background, and I hired a girl whose portfolio was nowhere 
near as good as a lot of the others. But she had a kind 
of a something. She not only became one of the best back- 
ground artists: she is today one of the best layout artists, 
the best story artists. She's terrific. So, you see, 
I didn't hire her on the portfolio, 'cause on the portfolio 



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I would not hire her. It was simply I'm talking to her 
and there's something that takes place, 

WESCHLER: One of the common criticisms that's made of 
Cal Arts is that it's an elitist school in terms of the 
finances and the people who can afford to go there. Are 
there scholarships available? 

ENGEL: Oh, there are a lot of scholarships, oh yes, 
there are scholarships all over. Of course, some of the 
people can afford, like they would go to any other school if 
they can afford. But there are a lot of scholarships. 
WESCHLER: You've never had to reject someone who otherwise 
you would have wanted to accept? 

ENGEL: No, But it's easier for me. If I see somebody — 
About four years ago there was a storyboard I saw, the 
cartoony kind; and I saw that the chap was about eighteen 
years old. I thought, "Eighteen years old — that's incredible, 
this is wonderful stuff!" All the scholarships were gone, 
so I saw Bill Lund — I think Bill Lund was the president 
then, that was that rough time — I got to him and I told him 
that this chap is eighteen years old, that's an incredible 
storyboard. He went out, and he got money from a friend of 
his or somebody. The fellow came in--now I never met the 
guy — turned out to be a black boy, six-foot-two, you know. 
And he's working now — I think he's working at Hanna 
Barbera [Productions]. But I didn't know who he was, I 



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got him a scholarship, and so that's it. 

I have not had any bad incidents. The only bad 
incident is when somebody comes in and really after a year 
or so nothing happens, and then they go out with their 
portfolio to studios and say, "I'm a Cal Arts student," 
and it's dreadful. I mean, that's the bad part of it, because 
it happens, and it can give you a very bad reputation. They 
say, "What the hell are they doing?" But luckily I had some 
wonderful people going in the same direction a year later, 
I mean such talents that they just drooled over them, so 
that they realized that this guy was, you know — 
WESCHLER: Was the exception. 

ENGEL: Was something very, very weird. I'd accepted him, 
but after a while I realized that the film that he showed 
me was not his, wasn't his film. Because when he had to do 
what I call in-betweening, which is the simplest thing, and 
I saw the drawings, I said, "No, if he can't do that, then 
the film I saw wasn't his." You know, as simple as that. 
So that happens. 

WESCHLER: One other thing that's been really interesting 
to me in terms of just looking at lists of your students 
is the number of women. 

ENGEL: Oh! That's good; that's a good question. 
WESCHLER: Were there many women in animation at first, 
and has that changed? 



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ENGEL: What's happening — that's a good question — what's 
happening in animation is that the girls are discovering 
animation. Let's say twenty-five years ago, it would have 
been impossible to find maybe two girls in the industry. 
But they are discovering animation as a medium for themselves. 
So when I mention like Kathy Rose and Joyce Borenstein, 
Elizabeth Bechtold, right now like Niki Kaftan and Jane 
Kirkwood — I'm trying to think of one name that's very 
good, she's been working with Bakshi-- 
WESCHLER: We can fill that in later on. 
ENGEL: And Elizabeth — there's another Elizabeth — and 
Karen, there's Ellen right now. There are I would say about 
a good forty to forty-five percent girls coming in. The 
medium is being discovered by them. In other words, all 
they need is a little table at home and they can make 
films on their own and they don't need anybody to help 
them. In fact, one of the best talents today, I think, in 
America is Caroline Leaf from Boston; she did three films 
at the [National] Film Board [of Canada] ; one is called 
The Street , the latest is Kafka's Metamorphosis [of Mr. 
Samsa ] . I think she's probably the most important talent 
in the field of the narrative filmmaking, and the best 
credit is what you see up there, these two films, beautiful. 
It is something, I think, that they can work at it and walk 
away from it. You know, a man has a problem, because a 



187 



man's job is almost always in a straight line: You go to 
work in the morning, you come home and sit down. But a 
woman, you know, is busy; she has the housework, she has 
to go out, she has to answer the phone, she has to pick 
up the children. You see how many little things she is 
involved in; meanwhile, she can sit at the animation 
board. But you, as a man, would find it very difficult, 
because you're much more oriented to a routine which is 
straight. Now, that might be a silly approach, but I 
think there's something in it. So that they can work at 
home, or anyplace, and don't need a studio. You can have 
a little set-up that you can fold like a book, [claps 
hands] you can fold it, open it. But also I think they have 
more patience, in a way, and they're not so much interested 
as I find in getting to studios. It's more as something 
that they want to do . It's not always, "I want to be a 
big animator." It's something they just want to do. And 
they're incredibly dedicated to the medium, to the art. 
WESCHLER: You seem to work well with them. You're very 
encouraging. 

ENGEL: Oh yes, yes, because I think it's very important, 
because they bring a whole new terrain or experience into 
the medium, it's just another texture, it's another world. 
Oh, Brenda Benkes ! I must mention that name, because she's 
been working with Bakshi, and she does a lot of — She's a 



188 



freelance animator and a beautiful talent, beautiful. But 
she works more in the classical approach to animation, 
fluid, very fluid movement in her drawings, I was going 
to mention it earlier. But this whole new world, the women, 
are coming into the medium. 

WESCHLER: Are they encountering resistances? Are the 
studios still relatively sexist? 

ENGEL: I think they still are because this whole industry 
is so male-oriented. But then you have Tisa David in New 
York who — She did all the animation for John Hubley's films, 
so that's a real breakthrough, because she actually did 
all the animation back there. I think once they make the 
scene — they have to put themselves on the scene maybe a 
little more than a man — the studio will hire them. We always 
had very good talent in the field, but they were always 
either in storyboarding or character designing. So you had 
women in that field, but not so much in animation and not 
so much as a total filmmaker as they are now turning out 
to be total filmmakers. It's interesting, because for the 
male members of the industry, sometimes it's very difficult 
to take that, because they're still just animators but here's 
Kathy Rose, and she's a total filmmaker. She can show you 
half a dozen of her films, you know, and there's the whole 
damn thing. But I do encourage that aspect of it. Also it 
makes it much more interesting, much more interesting. 



189 



And this year I have several very strong talents, girls. 
But it's a difficult thing. Animation is physically very 
difficult if you really have to bear down on it eight to 
ten hours a day. It takes a lot out of you physically. 
WESCHLER: One last question, because we're coming to the 
end of the tape, the end of our session today. We've 
talked a lot about you as a teacher: How are you as a 
learner from your students? Do you find your students — 
ENGEL: Oh, really, I don't see that. The only thing 
I see that — I work continuously, as I always do. In other 
words, I work on my painting, I do my lithography, and I 
work on my films. And if there is an influence — Maybe 
there is, maybe I'm not aware. But the important thing is 
that I am in motion, and that's very important for them 
to see, that you are also a filmmaker. 



190 



TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE ONE 
DECEMBER 30, 1977 

WESCHLER: Last week, Jules, you showed me some of your 
live-action films, and it was very enjoyable to see them. 
I thought today we'd talk a little bit about live-action 
films. For starters, you might talk about the chain of 
events that led to your doing live-action film at all. 
ENGEL: Well, I think it's almost a natural event that 
when you work on films like I myself worked on animation, 
that somehow, sometime, you will get into live-action. 
Not that you were going that way, but I think it's almost 
more like as if it's coming your way. And that really 
happened in a way, because on one of my trips to New York, 
they were thinking, Martha Jackson, who is the owner of 
Martha Jackson Gallery — she of course died some years 
ago — she had an idea of doing a film on Paul Jenkins. 
They just thought that because of my background as a 
painter, as an artist, a designer, and my films through 
UPA, that they knew of me and that I would be a natural 
talent to do something with film that predicated itself 
on a painter. So in that sense the event was a natural 
continuity, a natural flow. I didn't have to go out of my 
way to look for anything. It just came my way. The project 
was right because I was dealing with a painter whose work 
was in motion while he was working. So it was a natural 

191 



texture for me to work with, because I had been working 
with movement, so capturing characteristics of a painter 
like Paul Jenkins was a very comfortable experience for me. 
The important thing for me was that I should not inject 
any other image into the film: by that I mean not inject 
cross-dissolves or overlaps of imagery, because if I had 
done that, I would have then put another image into the 
film that the painter had nothing to do with. I would 
therefore completely destroy his art, because if I had two 
images overlapping and I had long exposures, then I am 
bringing in another type of image that he never had on his 
canvas. So I had to be very careful. On this, of course, 
I'm very keen: I almost take it as a dogmatic approach, 
because I have seen many art films of painters where the 
filmmaker was putting images into the film that you would 
never find on a canvas. So I predicated this film on 
straight editing, never mixing anything else into the 
content, the image content of this film. But at the same 
time and even with the editing, the picture must have a 
flow, like his work has a flow. And I think that was done: 
the picture has rhythm, it moves, and it captures Jenkins 
at work. I was not trying to do a documentary, because 
that's not my bag; I'm not made that way. What I wanted to 
do here was like a piece of poetry, to just take you near 
or in the environment of the painter. If you like it there. 



192 



then I would assume that you will, on your own, go out and 
seek him out and find out more about him. All I wanted 
to do is put his effort, his work, his process, his way in 
front of you. 

Also, another important aspect here was that the 
musician worked very diligently at trying to come up 
with sound that would really work with the color. In other 
words, he was aware of the yellow, he was aware of the blue, 
he was aware of the red and the orange--let ' s say just 
these few--and he tried to come up with sound, somehow, to 
match it. Now this was his contribution. 
WESCHLER: This was Irving Bazilon. 

ENGEL: It was Irving Bazilon, a very fine composer who's 
done a lot of films and has always been commissioned to 
do large works of art music for individual conductors. 
He liked the work, and he enjoyed what he was doing. I 
gave him a total free range, as I always do for people 
who do my music, because I expect them to come back with 
something very special that I would nowhere near have the 
idea to do. The only thing I asked him to do in the film 
was that when Jenkins was on the screen we will not have 
any sound. In other words, I wanted the painter to carry 
the scene through his personality, through his presence. 
And it worked very well. I think it did a good deal for 
the film. However, when you saw only the character of the 



193 



color or the shapes moving, forming, dissolving, then the 
music was very comfortable; and really it's more comfortable 
for the viewer. I think an artist really would not need a 
sound background, no more than he would need a sound back- 
ground when he goes into a gallery. You go into the gallery, 
you don't have music. You walk through the gallery, you 
stop, you move, you come back to an image. But there's 
no music. Yet if you put the same images on the screen, 
it's incredible: immediately people want music. It's just 
one of those things. But anyway, it worked out well here 
with some areas where Jenkins was on the screen that he 
would be working without music behind him. 
WESCHLER: I'd like to ask you a few specific questions 
about this movie, The Ivory Knife . First of all, you 
mentioned Martha Jackson; did you know her before this, 
or did she seek you out? 

ENGEL: No, I really didn't know Martha Jackson before 
that. I was recommended to her by a mutual friend. The 
relationship was a very good one; she didn't get in my 
way; and when she did, at the very tail end of the film, 
I was able to convince her that the film was working as 
it is. So the relationship was a very good one. 
WESCHLER: What was she like? 

ENGEL: Oh, Martha was a very bright, brilliant person who 
loved art. She lived art, and she had a lot of ideas. Even 



194 



the idea of doing a film on a painter at that time--I'm 
talking about '65, '64--was quite unique because she was 
thinking of using the film and then sending the film to 
countries where Paul Jenkins could have no exhibit but could 
have a display of his work through the film. This was her 
idea. So she was on the threshold of something very 
important, and this was the kind of head that Martha had. 
But a person who really loved art; that was her total life. 
WESPHLER: Can you talk a little about the actual mechanics 
of filming a film with Paul Jenkins, what he was like? 
ENGEL: Paul was very comfortable during the filming because 
he had quite an image of himself, that he's a rather 
attractive man, and I think the whole idea for him was a 
very pleasurable one. And when he saw himself on the screen, 
of course, he looked well. He had almost like a Christ 
figure, and he was very comfortable to work with, comfortable 
in front of a camera. I tried not to have too much of 
him; I was more interested often in the way he worked 
his hands. There's a shot at the very beginning of a 
large painting where two yellow stripes come down and you 
see his hands and they're working. I was more interested 
in that aspect of it, really, than him as a painter, because 
this sword has two edges. In other words, I could like his 
work and I could not like his work, but the experience of 
doing a film with somebody like him, because the way he 



195 



works is an interesting one. In total it was a good 
experience. 

The only problem, really, if we're talking personalities 
was really Bazilon. Bazilon was a problem because, coming 
from Los Angeles — Naturally, he tagged me immediately as 
a Hollywood character, and this had to be straightened 
out. He had a couple of unpleasant phrases about that, you 
know, throwing at me before we started. But once the film 
started, Bazilon as a personality was then very beautiful. 
He worked like a dog, and he was then really a beautiful 
talent, once he got over that idea that I'm Hollywood and 
he's New York. Frankly, if I have anything unpleasant to 
say about this man, he was more Hollywood than some of what 
we call "old-timers". He really was the Hollywood type. 
WESCHLER: How so? 

ENGEL: Well, because of his whole attitude, the way he 
talked. Somehow, although he was a younger man, still he 
had what I call the Hollywood-of-Yesterday in attitude 
about a great many things. In other words, a guy who knows 
everything: you can't tell him anything, an incredible ego 
who would love to talk about himself twenty-four hours a 
day. This kind of a heavy, driving ego, you know, which is 
not around here as much as it used to be. So he would really 
strike me more as a Hollywood type. 
WESCHLER: Was Jenkins a talkative type? 



196 



ENGEL: Jenkins is not a talkative type; he's rather quiet, 
very slow. He's very deliberate in his speech, and he's 
very much in the terrain of a zen approach of painting and 
thinking. That is really his philosophy. 

WESCHLER: It strikes me that his painting seems to be a 
very private kind of activity and that it would have been 
very difficult to do it in front of cameras with other 
people in the room. Did that seem to be a problem? 
ENGEL: Well, that was never a problem for him because 
he's quite a bit of — He's a ham. He also wrote a play at 
that time, and so he was very keen of the world of the 
theater. He was very aware because he was functioning in 
the theater with a play. In fact, at that time I was the 
only one that he even told about the play that he wrote 
(which has been published, by the way) , and the reason for 
that was because again the restrictions in this country 
that if you're a painter, you have to be a painter, and 
if you're a lithographer, you're a lithographer. People 
used to resent an artist who'd be involved in other arts, 
especially on the American scene. So he wouldn't dare 
tell anyone in the art world that he has a play that he 
has written and which was performed in New York, because 
then they would have said, "Well, what the hell are you 
doing with writing? You're a painter." But he did. To 
me he always seemed very quiet, very gentle, but incredibly 



197 



at home in front of the camera. Because I think with one 
eye he always had that direction, probably because of his 
looks. 

WESCHLER: Did he have any say in how it was edited? 
Did he talk to you about what he wanted from it? Or was 
it very much your own personal--? 

ENGEL: No, no, Paul told me absolutely nothing about how 
he wanted it or what I should do. What I did at the very, 
very beginning of the film, which you saw with those pots — 
There was one shot there where if you had seen that, you 
would think it was Miro, but just a coincidence, you know, 
the way thing's dropped. I showed him that part of the 
film immediately, because I wanted to make sure that what- 
ever is on the screen he feels comfortable with it. He 
saw that and immediately mentioned he would rather not 
have that. I saw that even before that, but I wanted 
him to see it, and then by doing that I'd get his confidence 
that I'm not going to do anything against his feelings. 
So that was the only thing that I did. 
WESCHLER: Eventually you put it in though? 
ENGEL: No, no, that was another shot. 
WESCHLER: Oh, I see. 

ENGEL: It went out, because if you had seen that, that 
was really Miro. It was just a coincidence, but it was 
obvious. So immediately that went out. So the only thing 



198 



that Jenkins would say is if there was something that 
he felt uncomfortable with. And that was the only thing. 
The rest of it was okay. In fact, he was very, very happy 
with the film. So was Martha. They were very pleased, 
because the film did win them first prize at the Venice 
International Film Festival, 1966. It won all kinds of 
awards; it played to good houses. Oh, also, I had to be 
very careful, very careful not to make his work look easy. 
Because it would be very easy for people to see a film like 
that and then go home and begin to do finger painting and 
stuff like that. So that is where I had to be very careful 
not to make it look like that. So in that sense, the film 
was very successful. If anything, I think it gives him a 
very large presence, maybe even larger than you see when 
you see his paintings. 

WESCHLER: Just out of curiosity, the paintings that he 
did while you were filming him, were those eventually 
sold? Do you have any idea what happened to those? 
ENGEL : Almost all those paintings were sold. As far as 
selling, Jenkins practically sold out every show at that 
time that I was with him or around him. He was selling 
everything except paintings that were-- You see, he worked 
with the primary colors, as you notice, the red and the 
yellow and the blue and orange and the complementary — 
purple. So he was very comfortable: those colors are very 



199 



easy to live with, so he always sold. Mow he had another 
group of paintings that he did sometime later. Those were 
very beautiful, huge paintings of grays and whites, and I 
don't think he ever sold any of those. But these paintings, 
yes, he had absolutely no problem of practically selling 
out every show he put on. And that's a lot of money in 
there. 

WESCHLER: So some people own paintings where they could 
even have a movie of how the painting was made. 
ENGEL: Oh, yes, yeah, yeah. And then the book came out by 
[Harry N.] Abrams [inc.], a huge book on Paul Jenkins. He 
does mention the film in there, I think there are even 
some little pictures here and there from the film. But as 
far as that terrain of selling is concerned, he never had 
any problem. 

WESCHLER: You mentioned his primary colors; do you think 
that his art is unusually photogenic for a filmmaker? 
ENGEL: It's very photogenic; that is another reason I 
realized from the very beginning that this should be 
visually very beautiful, because you're dealing with colors 
that will come off extremely well. The color plus that 
things were in motion, that was enough for me. And then, 
of course, you look at the man and he looks like Christ. 
I mean, you had a beautiful combination of material that 
was very filmic, you know? 



200 



WESCHLER: Moving from him to the other film that you showed 
me the other day, the film you did, The Torch and the Torso . 
ENGEL: Torch and Torso , Berrocal . 

WESCHLER: Could you explain how that came about? 
ENGEL: That again came about in a very interesting way, 
because [Miguel] Berrocal had been trying and hoping to 
do a film. When he knew I was in Paris, he had someone 
come to me, and we had a meeting. The fact that I was 
from animation and dealt with movement and shapes and forms, 
he thought I would be the ideal person to do a film, because 
his sculpture is put together sometimes with as many as 
fifteen, eighteen, twenty, thirty pieces. They fit together 
almost like a jigsaw puzzle. Because we were working with 
these many shapes and sizes, he thought because of my 
background I could do well. 

Now, I had to be very careful with his film again, 
because at first he wanted to make it funny, to have these 
pieces move around and jump and come together. But I 
would have destroyed him as an artist; and his direction 
was not to be funny at all, not when you see those colossal, 
heavy, ponderous pieces. They're incredibly powerful. 
There's nothing funny about this stuff. So if I made him 
funny, as he thought, well, he would have come off as a 
clown. So I had to talk him out of that. Although there's 
one little moment in the film where pieces jump around. 



201 



But that's just enough, it's very little, it's small, it 
doesn't hurt him. 

Also what was interesting here was that I would go to 
black and white, because everything of his was stainless 
steel, it was steel. The originals that you see in the film 
are all unique pieces. Those pieces were done by him. 
They're gray, silver, high polished; and I would not go 
into color because, I mean, there was nothing there. Even 
when we went to his foundry in Verona, the whole place, 
the whole interior was black and white really, black and 
white or gray. So why destroy this wonderful color with 
a color film? It was just a natural thing. 

But the reason again I came to do this film was a 
strange coincidence or situation that sometimes bring you 
into these experiences, you know. In other words, sometimes 
things come to you, and often when things come to you, 
even if you don't like a project, take it, because there is 
something there that's right. 
WESCHLER: Can you describe Berrocal a bit? 

ENGEL: Berrocal at that time I think was about thirty-six, 
and he represented Spain at the Venice Biennale. He's a 
charming fellow. He loves huge cigars. He has a walk like 
Groucho Marx; I noticed that on him immediately; I don't 
think he's aware of it, but I was. He loves to live well. 
He always had a big, beautiful car, big homes. But he ' s a 



202 



very hard worker. When he's going into a show of his, he 
spends four or five months, twelve, fourteen, sixteen 
hours a day, steady, in the foundry. A hard worker, strong 
and accurate. His background is architecture; that was the 
first thing he did was architecture, then into printing, 
then into painting. Nothing really worked until he touched 
sculpture, and then it worked. From the very beginning it 
worked. And then there was nothing else for him except 
sculpture. It was a wonderful thing to work with him because, 
as hard a worker as he is, he still loved living well. We 
would go out during the shooting; we did the film in Venice, 
and we always spent two hours for lunch and had the best of 
food. I remember once we had to rush a little bit with 
lunch, although the lunch was already very, very good; we 
walked around the block, and next thing I know we're going 
into a little bistro or someplace because we forgot to have 
an after-dinner drink. So I had to have after-dinner drink, 
he had after-dinner drink. [laughter] It was too strong 
but, you know, when you're working with him, you play with 
him. 

WESCHLER: I notice in both The Ivory Knife and The Torch 
and the Torso , there's no narrative voice. There's no 
voice that tells you that the artist was born such-and- 
such, or that his studio is located in such-and-such and 
so forth. Do you have a particular bias against using that 

kind of voice? 

203 



ENGEL: I felt that the way we are going to put the films 
together, that, just viewing it, it will explain itself 
and you don't need anyone to tell you. I find it's very 
redundant when you're looking at something. It's all there, 
it's all in front of you, so why then have someone tell you 
what you're looking at? I feel that the picture is put 
together in such a way that you can see the process. Again, 
all I do is take you into the environment and show you his 
workshop, show you his foundry, show him handling the 
material, so you see what the man is all about when he's 
at work and then you see the finished product. And if the 
art doesn't explain itself, then it's already too bad, 
because if you have to explain art, there's something wrong 
with it. In other words, in art you're doing something 
that you cannot put into words, and that's the whole idea. 
Even in Jenkins or Berrocal, those things cannot be put into 
words: it has to be seen, it has to be felt, it has to 
be touched. 

WESCHLER: One of the nice things about The Torch and the 
Torso is a kind of tactile quality to the images. 
ENGEL: Yes, I wanted to capture the shine, the spark that 
it had, so I put them in front of black velvet and practically 
no light, or very little light, but it picked up what was 
there. I wanted to just give it back to the viewer, that 



204 



that's the way I saw it, and this is the way I'm going 

to show it to you. 

WESCHLER: One thing interests me in your comments about 

art being a nonverbal thing is that I know that you are 

not yourself nonverbal. You're very articulate, and also 

you have a great love of words. You were telling me the 

other day that you love plays . 

ENGEL: Oh yes. 

WESCHLER: You have a whole shelf of books on theater and 

so forth. So that is not a negative attitude toward words 

per se at all . 

ENGEL: No, my hobby is I love to read plays, and I love 

the dialogue. In fact, some time ago, before I started to 

do any kind of a painting, I would read a play or read at 

least one act. I would have very special plays like [August] 

Strindberg's The Father . I would read the first act and 

then that would put me in some kind of mood that I could 

go into my work. I think it's very unusual. I don't think 

there's any other painter who reads plays before he starts 

to work. 

WESCHLER: What is the relationship between the work that's 

produced after you've read a play and the play that you've 

read? 

ENGEL: Well, I think it's probably the structure, the 

structure or the way a good play is written, the way the 



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words fit; it fits like a piece of building, and my work 

is very much structured that way. They're very architectural, 

and I think plays are very architectural. They have a 

structure, and this is what puts me in a good frame of 

mind. 

WESCHLER: Will a dark, somber scene in a play produce a 

dark, somber painting? 

ENGEL: No, no, it's not so much of that. It's more the 

continuity of a dialogue, the way they overlap each other and 

the way they fit or go around each other and then come back 

from another point of view. That is the character of a 

play that makes me feel good, and it puts me in a mood 

with my work. 

WESCHLER: Returning to live-action films, we've talked 

about The Ivory Knife and The Torch and the Torso . This is 

a list of the other ones, and I just thought you might 

briefly mention any others that you might want to include, 

besides the Tamarind film which we'll get to in a second. 

ENGEL: Yeah, well, we did talk about Coaraze . 

WESCHLER: Right, we've already talked about that. 

ENGEL: We did talk about Coaraze . Then there's New York 

100 . It's another film that was done for Martha Jackson 

Gallery, and it's the work of John Hultberg. Hultberg, 

of course, was not as quiet or as delicate or as simple 

a film, from a point of view of approach, of working 



206 



situation, as the Jenkins film because, see, because here 
we're dealing with flat paintings and there's no movement, 
no flow of painting. So you were back into a very character- 
istic terrain when you work with a painter, although there 
was one painting that he was working on at the time — 
So you get some idea of him being in motion while he paints. 
But the joy was not as much as it was when I worked on the 
Jenkins film, because he was really, really truly a filmic 
painter. 

Light Motion , it was done for Esther Robles Gallery 
here in Los Angeles. The idea about this film was that 
instead of taking photographs over to Europe with her on her 
trip to Europe, why not take a fifteen- or sixteen-minute 
film and show the gallery and show the artists and see the 
work; and then you can move around the work, because a 
number of those were in motion, you know; and some had 
sound. So why not make a sixteen-minute film? Then she'd 
have something to take back to France or Germany, and 
people would really have a chance to see her stable. 
t^SCHLER: So this was all the people in her stable. 
ENGEL: All the people in her stable, yes. 

WESCHLER: Were there any particular ones that come to mind? 
ENGEL: Oh, [Robert] Cremean was in there; Cremean was in 
there. 
WESCHLER: Was Claire Falkenstein in there? 



207 



ENGEL: No, no, but Cremean was in there, and, let's see, 

who else? Oh I'll be damned. Pat O'Neill was in there as 

a sculptor, and, oh, some of those artists I don't even 

remember. 

WESCHLER: We can fill them in later. 

ENGEL: At this stage, but I can get names on them, yes. 

And then recently I did a film on Max Bill, the Swiss 
painter and architect and designer and politician [ Max Bill ] , 
That was done for the Comsky gallery, for Cynthia Comsky. 
I very much liked the work of Max Bill, but the situation 
here was very complicated, because we were going to do a 
film on his work, but the work never arrived. It was some- 
where in customs, and we had the cameras and everything all 
lined up. 
WESCHLER: Here? 

ENGEL: Yeah. So what we had to do — and Cynthia improvised 
the idea — we stretched huge canvases all over the gallery, 
and then Max Bill just started to make drawings on the 
stretched canvases. It was very impromptu, you know, almost 
like a happening kind of thing. He did talk about things. 
This was very interesting from a point of view, because 
you never knew what he was going to do, because we couldn't 
set him in motion in the way of saying, "Now, Max, you stand 
here and you stand there and the camera will be — " We 
told him, "You do what you damn well please, and I'm going 



208 



to work around you." So that was the process. I had two 
cameras to work with, so I put them in the positions where 
I got the most out of him at work. And the filming was 
finished. Then I had to go up to San Francisco, because 
he had a large exhibit there, and take a lot of still photos 
of his exhibit in San Francisco. So then at the end it all 
ended up in the editing room and had to be put together, 
really, at the editing table. But it's all right. I like to 
work that way, where you really don't know where you're 
going to be the next shot, so when you come to the editing, 
that's when the whole picture gets put together and you 
have a lot more freedom. But it has a good continuity and 
it is Max Bill at work. 

WESCHLER: Can you describe him by the way? 
ENGEL : Well, he was very pleasant, a very gentleman, as 
to work with him under these conditions, but I really 
don't know how he is when the conditions are different. 
But he was very pleasant and very kind, had a kind of a 
humorous face for the camera. But, oh, it was very 
interesting because, what I did, I looked out the window 
(we were on the second floor) and there's a shot there of 
the street, you know, red lights and the green lights and 
a lot of lines, you know, just stop and lines for the cars 
to stop. It had a wonderful Mondrianish quality, looking 
down. So I had a shot taken of that, and we showed him the 



209 



rushes. He said, "Oh no, that's not me, that's Mondrian." 
I wanted to use the shot in the film, because here we are 
in the studio, see this man work on a wall, and I had the 
camera turn and just pick up a shot, you know, where he is. 
But all those lines, you see, he wouldn't have that. But 
naturally you have to go with the talent, because if he 
tells you, "No, I feel it's wrong," it's wrong. 
WESCHLER: Sure. 

ENGEL: So I mean, in that sense you have no choice. But 
it was a good situation. Filmically, it would have been 
a very nice, nice thing, you know, go from the lines in the 
street back into the lines back in the room. 
WESCHLER: Just a couple of questions about pure technical 
matters of filming. You have camera people along who do 
the actual manning of these live-action cameras, or do you 
do that yourself? 

ENGEL: No, no, I'm not a cameraman. I can take still 
photos, and I can do pretty well with that, but when it 
comes to really work like this, then I prefer to have a 
couple of cameramen. Sometimes I just need one, sometimes 
I need two. Because I work with a great deal of speed. In 
other words, if I walk into a place, like for instance when 
I did the Berrocal film and I walked into the foundry, I 
just walked in there once, walked through the place, looked 
at the corners, the windows, where people were working, and 



210 



from that moment on, I know what I want to do . I had the 
shots pretty well in my head, even from a point of view of 
continuity, how I go from one shot into another. And then 
also I like to do a lot of shots which people would say, 
"No, it will never work, you're not going to see anything, 
it's going to be too light." Then I'll take all those shots, 
and also take the shots I know will give me the film. 
Then, I will also ask the cameraman, "If you see anything 
here that you want to shoot, shoot it, and we'll see what 
we get back." But I'm always looking for this happy 
accident that you don't find much in film, because everything 
is so structured. The cameras are structured, the cameraman 
is structured, and they have taboos: you don't do this, you 
don't do that, this will never work. I've never done it 
before, but I like to find accidents. There's not too 
much of it in live-action, but sometimes something happens 
that is so wonderful as an image and I can still make it 
work, you know, in a total film. But on Berrocal, I shot 
one shot of everything, I never shot anything twice. I don't 
have to, because if I look through the camera and I have 
the composition that I want and it's lit well, the light is 
right, then this is it. And as I say, I'm putting a film 
together at that moment already. 
WESCHLER: Do you use editors? 
ENGEL: I use editors, but they don't edit my film. I use 



211 



them as splicers; they splice my film. But I don't say that 
in front of them. Because that's when I put the film 
together. I put a film together when I edit. That's when 
I make a film. And what she or he will do is, I pick the 
material, I pick the footage, I pick the length of each 
shot, that this is what I want. I will ask once in a while, 
"Do you have a recommendation? Do you see anything that 
I don't see?" That's okay; if a person has an idea, sure, 
I listen, and why not? But I make the film when I edit; 
that's the only time. Because when I shoot, I already 
[shoot] v/ith that in mind, what will follow and how it will 
work. But I don't like the process. I don't like to sit 
at the editing desk, because what I like to do while I 
edit like this is I like to walk around the room and glance 
toward the image. And I do that, I walk away, and I almost 
feel like as if I was painting, you know, how you walk 
away from a painting, you walk back and you look at it. I 
almost use the same process when I edit, and that's why 
I need someone who only splices and I say, "Okay, let's run 
it." And I walk away and I-- Even when it's running I 
might walk away and turn around and look. That's maybe a 
strange way of doing things, but I have to be almost a 
little bit in motion when I'm working on a film and not be 
sitting in front of a table. 
WESCHLER: Well, why don't we move from talking about the 



212 



live-action films, to talking about — Have you covered all 

the films? 

ENGEL: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. 

WESCHLER: To talking over lithography, and then we'll 

talk a little about the time that you did. But 

first of all, what was the first time that you went to 

Tamarind? 

ENGEL: In 1960. 

WESCHLER: So, you were one of the very early people at 

Tamarind. 

ENGEL: Early, early, yes. 

WESCHLER: Let's talk a little about you and lithography 

first. Had you done any lithography before you went to 

Tamarind? 

ENGEL: No, no. You see, when I had a call, or a letter, 

from June Wayne — [tape recorder turned off] 

WESCHLER: Well, starting up again about Tamarind, how 

did you know June Wayne, or did you? 

ENGEL: I knew June Wayne because I was exhibiting at that 

time very extensively here in Los Angeles, so she knew my 

work. And although I had never done any lithography or 

printing, but that was the whole idea of June--this is 

where she was very bright--is to pull in people into a 

medium where they've never done anything, to introduce them 

to a new field, not just to go to people who've been doing 



213 



it, because if they'd been doing it, they'd be doing the 
same thing they did yesterday. Her idea was to get people 
in there who'd never touched the medium and see what they'd 
come up with. That was very good. 
WESCHLER: So one day you got a letter from her? 
ENGEL: So I got a letter from June Wayne, telling me about 
it, that they were offering me this Tamarind scholarship. 
And it's a strange thing but, you know, I really turned it 
down, really turned it down. But two months went by, four, 
six, nine months went by, and she still was asking. 
WESCHLER: Why were you turning it down? 

ENGEL: Well, because I'd never done anything with print, 
and the idea of doing something where you have to wait 
and go through all the process and see what it looks like 
was something I wouldn't enjoy. Because when you paint, 
it's a point of view, you're in it, you're part of it, you're 
seeing what's happening. But the idea of doing something 
and then to have someone else or even yourself push it or 
poke it or whatever you have to do, and wait, you know, that 
to me was very alien. But this strange [thing] happened. 
After a while, I said to myself, "Now, wait, wait, there's 
something wrong. This thing is coming your way. Why are 
you turning it down?" You see, that's one of those strange 
things you can't explain. Then I said to myself, "It's 
wrong for me to turn it down." So I called up June and I 



214 



said, "Okay, when shall I come in?" So, okay, we made the 
arrangements . 

Now the arrangement was a very strange one, because 
it's a two-month situation. But, you see, I was working 
at UPA and I could only come in on Saturdays and Sundays, 
which was all right with her, but it lasted like a year and 
a half. For a year and a half I went there on Sundays and 
the studio of course then was cold — I think I ended up 
once with a pretty heavy cold. But I stuck to it and I 
came out with about six or eight or ten, and some were 
really full-size, full-size prints. But at the beginning 
it was very difficult for me, because, as I say, I had no 
idea about the medium. But that was the whole object of 
hers, is to have people go in there who are painters or 
sculptors and see what they do, even if they fumble or 
bumble . 

WESCHLER: We have an interview with June Wayne, but we 
don't have an interview with anyone describing what that 
process of the early confrontations was. You went there, 
and what was it like? 

ENGEL: When I went there, all June asked me was if I have 
an idea. And I said, "Yes, I have an idea." I think the 
idea I had at that time was that I would have Ray Bradbury 
write the material that would be like a book, or a large 
portfolio; it would have something to do with — I think at 



215 



that time, the Bomb was already in motion, this kind of a 
wild explosions that was leading up to things. I knew Ray 
Bradbury well. But I never got to that, because as I 
started to work with the medium, I said, "Oh, the hell with 
that book and that portfolio. I'm just going to go wild 
and just do what feels natural as far as this whole new 
medium is concerned." 

WESCHLER: What kind of facilities were at your disposal 
for you to go wild with? Was there a printer there? 
ENGEL: Oh, at Tamarind you had printers, you had master 
printers. Now the whole idea, again, of June's was twofold: 
First, to get people who never touched a stone, v/ho'd 
never done any printing, that was one, but that was really 
not the important thing. The important thing was to develop 
master printers, because that's what lacked in this country: 
you had no printers. So that was the key drive at Tamarind, 
and that's how you have Gemini [Editions, Limited], and 
that's how you have Cirrus. I just mention two, and there 
are several others that came out of Tamarind. So what she 
did, she really developed master printers. She had the 
best printer then, a fellow by the name of "Bobitch" 
[Bohuslav Horak] that she brought over from Europe. And 
under his guide other, let's say people who were involved 
in print but not there yet, they were working with Bobitch, 
and they were developing as master printers. So I had the 



216 



best printer, and I had the best equipment, any paper I 
wanted, any paper, stones, anything and everything. She 
had everything the best, and that was June's way of doing 
things . 

WESCHLER: Already in 1960 — it was that way from the very 
start? 

ENGEL: Oh yes, 'cause don't forget, you also had Clinton 
Adams there and Garo Antreasian. Now, Garo Antreasian was 
a printer, and you had these two men there who were really 
June's right arm. So she had a beautiful shop: it was all 
set, all organized, and it was strict and very articulate. 
WESCHLER: How do you mean strict ? 

ENGEL: Strict in that there was no monkeying around there, 
it was not a playpen, it was a workshop for serious work. 
The only problem was sometimes that talent — Adja Yunkers 
was there. Well, I remember that time, he used up something 
like $800 or $900 worth of paper, just looking and feeling 
his way around. I mean, that was a little too much. I 
mean, you could do as you damn well pleased, but that was 
unheard of, using that amount of money, just, you know — 
And nothing! And I think that's when June began to put, 
let's say, guidelines or something down, where if you 
wanted a paper, if you wanted a paper, if you knew anything 
about papers, it was there for you, but the environment was 
that of very serious work. I mean, you can have fun and 



217 



all, but it was not a toy shop and the people who came 
there, they meant business. Because, after all, two months, 
if you come from some place, is not a long time, and you 
wanted to walk out of that place at least with, let's say, 
eight or ten prints, any size, and twenty each. So let's say 
if you walked out with 160 prints — let's say, eight different 
images, twenty of each — I mean, after two months, that was 
a beautiful thing. You could work there ten, twelve hours 
a day, so you were able to be productive, and naturally the 
talent that came there, they wanted to be just that. 

And June was a real strong influence. Oh, I mean she 
never got involved in your work, but when the work was ready 
to be signed and sealed with the Tamarind stamp, then she 
really looked at every print. I remember I had colored 
print, not too big, had I think four or five colors, and 
a printer by the name of Joe Funk--even that name gives you 
an idea what was wrong there--his hands were dirty and he 
was sloppy. Well, after I had these eighteen or twenty 
prints ready, they came in front of June Wayne, and June 
threw all of them out, because there were little spots on 
the white, and that was Joe's doing. That's what I mean, 
that she really was-- 

WESCHLER: She had very high standards? 

ENGEL: --on top of you for that aspect. Not what you're 
doing, but the finished print had to be really right. 



218 



TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE TWO 
DECEMBER 30, 19 77 

WESCHLER: Can you describe this woman. It's rather a 
remarkable thing in 1960, to have a woman running a very-- 
ENGEL: I can be sketchy, but the idea was at that time the 
Ford Foundation was going to give out some grants to 
different talents, and June was one they were going to give 
a grant to, and June said that's the wrong thing to do, 
that's not the way to go about it. (Now, I'm just telling 
you as I remember.) They said, "Well, what do you mean it's 
not the way?" She says, "No, it's not the way. The way 
to do it is to set up a shop where you're going to train 
not just this one artist, but you train master printers, 
plus you have art coming out." At first they said, "Well, 
that's strange, and it's a very big order?" But she stuck 
to her guns, and she did have some people on the grant 
committee that more or less were beginning to go with her; 
and finally she convinced them to do just this. 

Now, the next big hurdle was after she convinced them 
that this is the way to go, then she said, "Okay now, the 
place will be in Los Angeles, 'cause that's where I live." 
Well, they said, "No, no, no, Los Angeles is not a place 
for anything like that; it's the wrong environment." She 
said, "Well, if it's the wrong environment, then good-bye." 
Again her friends came to her aid, and she finally had her 

219 



way. They gave her the money, whatever it was, and the 
shop was put up. 

And it's interesting, at that time, I think Henry 
Seldis had an article in the [Los AngelesJ Times saying 
that it's not going to work. Well, I think a year and a 
half later. Tamarind had it's first exhibit at UCLA, and 
the article started out by saying, "I apologize, because 
it works . " 

Now the good thing about June was that she could have 
gone to New York, 'cause that probably would have been more 
ideal, or someplace else. But she said, "No, this is a good 
place as any." And you see, again, what was good about it 
was that she didn't look for a self-- 
WESCHLER: Aggrandizing? 

ENGEL: — aggrandizing, because if she went to New York, 
she would have been near the top of the heap, and she would 
have been a great lady and all that. So she didn't do 
anything like that. She opens a shop here, and she asks 
a lot of people who did not, at that time, have international 
presence. But that didn't mean anything to her, because 
she also called people in that had a large presence at that 
time and people who didn't. But she believed in that. So 
in a sense she believed in Los Angeles also. And this is 
why I'm still a champion of her, because I like this feeling 
where you believe in something and just because it doesn't 



220 



have a presence, because you don't have the kind of publicity- 
like the New York scene, she believed in it, stuck to it, and 
she proved that it can be done, and it was done. This is some- 
thing very special about her, 'cause so few people here in Los 
Angeles have really stayed with the city or helped the city, 
they always hang on a coattail of New York or some other place. 
You have to give her this credit, that damn it, she did it here, 
WESCHLER: Was there a small bias towards Los Angeles 
artists in her selections of grants that she gave? 
ENGEL: No, I don't think so. I don't think so, because 
as I remember they were coming in from all directions. 
There was no such thing as one of a type or a direction, no. 
I think the variety of talents that she pulled in from the 
city were a cross-section of anything and everything, where 
the performance was right. 

WESCHLER: Can you describe how she ran her place. You 
mentioned her staying away from the artists and so forth. 
Was it clearly though June's workshop? 

ENGEL: No, it wasn't June's workshop, it was Tamarind 
Workshop. If you worked there, you started at eight-thirty 
or eight o'clock, and generally you worked till five or 
five-thirty. If you came in at ten, it was all right. But 
I did find that most of the people who were working there, 
doing printing, they were very much on time, and it was to 
their advantage to be there on time. She would come in 



221 



sometimes and look at your work and maybe say a word or 

two, but never that I remember would she ever put any effort 

or say no, not this way, or do it that way. If you ask 

her, she would maybe comment, but there was no such thing. 

If she came into the shop, she came in because she wanted 

to talk about something to somebody or check the equipment, 

because maybe something was going wrong with the equipment, 

and that was her activity in the shop then. 

WESCHLER: Was she in command of the whole operation, or 

were there other people who shared it with her? 

ENGEL: Yes, she was in command, and her two big helpers were 

Clinton Adams and Garo Antreasian. I mean, they were really 

chiefs, let's say. I think at that time Adams and Garo were 

really what you call the master printers, and they ran the 

shop. But even from them, there was never any interference; 

however, if you wanted to ask them or get advice, you know, 

technical advice, they were always there and would be very 

helpful. Well, that was about their activity. Garo already 

was printing his own stuff. So they were also working in the 

place on their own work, which always makes things pleasanter. 

They're not just people who walk around; they were practicing 

artists. So they were working with you. 

WESCHLER: You were talking about your own work there. It 

wasn't going to be the Bradbury idea? 

ENGEL: No, it wasn't, because I felt if I had a Bradbury it 



222 



would be a little too much for me at this stage. I realized 
I wasn't ready when I was tackling something that for me 
was just very new. So I started on a rather small piece 
which was predicated on the character of an explosion, and — 
What was that first one? Alamogordo or something? Something 
like that name the first piece was. 
WESCHLER: Something like that, yes. 

ENGEL: Then all of a sudden I find that its characteristics 
were very comfortable for me, and that I didn't go into a 
terrain — what I call a hard-edge — that I was really familiar 
with and that was really my terrain. At that time I went 
into this other thing which was loose and explosive. In a 
sense I was really feeling my way with the medium, and that, 
at that time, for me was the most comfortable idea to work 
with. Later, when I did a film on Look of the Lithographer , 
— now, this was sometime later — but by then I was very 
comfortable with the medium. I relaxed and I did several 
prints which was really more characteristic of my work. 
But that happened later. So, you see, when you go into 
someplace like that and you're really new and you don't 
know and you almost don't have a total simpatico, at that 
moment you really are not doing what is you, but you're 
looking, I think, a little bit out. It's a little bit more 
comfortable terrain that you're working. 
WESCHLER: Well, let's talk about The Look of a Lithographer. 



223 



How did that film come about? And how did you get involved 
in it? 

ENGEL: Oh, what happened there, it began again, June 
started the film with a man by the name of Ivan Dryer. He 
was on the premises, he was almost like an artist-in- 
residence, but he was not an artist, he was a filmmaker, 
like a f ilmmaker-in-residence. And they worked like a year 
and a half or two years, he was shooting and stuff like 
that. But June didn't like the material. Again, when 
you're dealing with a man like Ivan, whom I used later — 
He's a good photographer, but he lacked certain ingredients, 
'cause he was working with images, art images and stuff 
like that, and he couldn't quite connect. So then June 
asked me if I would like to come in and take the project 
over. I said okay. Then I talked to Ivan, and I saw 
footage that he shot, and there were tons of it, my God. 
In reality June wanted me to fire him. Well, how can I 
fire the man? He's got dozens of reels. I mean, I need 
him because he's the only one who knows where things are, 
you know, I don't know. He also knows what's been shot. 
So I had to have him. And he was a very nice fellow and a 
very good photographer; he just needed a little more 
experience, visual experience of seeing things. But he was 
very good. And see again, June, not understanding the 
medium, she didn't realize that this guy was all right but 
he just needed this other something. So I came in and saw 

224 



the film, and then I started to shoot material. The 
interesting situation was that when I began to point out 
certain things — Not that I'd point out but I'd say, "We'll 
shoot this" and "We'll now shoot him, we'll get a close-up 
on him." My God, a couple of weeks later he was doing it 
very well. He caught on, and he began to see things a little 
different. Like at the end you see all those people, when 
the artists are being introduced. Those are nice shots, 
comfortable shots. I began to do this sort of thing in the 
shop, and Ivan is very good, because he caught on; he began 
to open up his vision, his visual articulation and seeing 
composition. 

So then I think I worked on it like eight weeks, in 
total, I think it was about eight weeks, maybe a little 
more, but things were moving then. And the minute I began 
to edit, that's when I put things together that there's a 
flow there. So then everything was okay with June and with 
Ivan. We were on the move until toward the end, when June 
began to put a little more pressure on the film because she 
wanted certain things in a certain way to suit her need. 
As I was a little more a poet on the film, I didn't want 
it to be so pedantic and so obvious. But if this is what 
she wanted and this will work for her, okay, that's her 
film, she's going to go out with it and try to make something 
of it. So at that moment I would pull back and I would relax 



225 



about it and go with what she wanted. I think in total 
that it worked out pretty well; there are things in the film 
today that, naturally, I would throw out. 

WESCHLER: You were mentioning when you [saw the film the 
other day] — 

ENGEL: The very beginning of the film, of these printers 
walking toward Tamarind Workshop and of girls coming across 
the street, I would throw all that stuff out, because that 
looked like a home movie. The lights were bad, and these 
people are not talkers, not when they're facing a camera. 
There's a little problem there. All that stuff I would just 
junk today. The interesting situation was of course that 
Nevelson was the key actor. 
WESCHLER: Louise Nevelson. 

ENGEL: Louise Nevelson was the key actor in the film, so 
she gave the film the glue. I call it the glue that holds 
[everything] together so that you can work from her and go 
away from her, come back, you see her working, then you 
see somebody's taking her print, developing her print, back 
to Nevelson. So she became a good ingredient, the center 
of the film, and she was wonderful to work with, and she 
enjoyed the adventure. But we had to be very careful with 
her because she, [laughter] she always wanted to pose. Once 
I asked her to walk across the room and, my God, she came 
across like Sarah Bernhardt. I said, "No, no, no, Louise, 



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not like that, just natural, natural, like you are. So 
this is the terrain of retakes. Sometimes when I got a 
camera on her face, she began to pose. But the other people 
in the shop, the printers, the workers, were very beautiful, 
and they worked with us. And there was no problem, ever. 
It was a long film. But I think if you look at the film 
today, for someone who wants to go into lithography, who 
wants to do something with the medium and wants to find 
about mechanics and techniques, I think it's really there 
in that sense. 

WESCHLER: An awful lot of information. 

ENGEL: Yeah, really a lot, and it's good information. It 
has a good insight, because it not only talks about the 
stone, what they do on the stone, but it takes you into the 
terrain, talking about the paper, how to handle the paper, 
how to carry it, even how you dress for the job. All that 
stuff is very, very important. 

WESCHLER: The narration is June's, is that correct? 
ENGEL: It was written by June, yes. I think probably 
today some of that could be dropped also, because there's 
a lot in front of your eyes that you just don't need that. 
But, as I say, you're working for somebody, and that some- 
body has to be pleased, and that's what you're doing. But 
I think there are moments in a film that are really lovely: 
when they pick up that cheesecloth — remember — they pick up 



227 



the cheesecloth and you look through it. Things like that. 
WESCHLER: And the grinding of the stones is beautiful. 
ENGEL: Oh, that is very lovely. Ivan was the photographer, 
but I would pick the spots for the point of view of the 
composition, and I would pick up little things like you got 
the stone when wet and you picked up the bulb above in the 
stone. Those are lovely little moments. 

I wanted the film to have a character where you can 
walk through a place like that and maybe you can even bump 
into things, and when you bump into a corner, let it be 
there, don't take it out. This is natural, a natural flair 
or texture still with a nice sense of structure, the two 
work together. Because I did a film where — I don't know if 
I mentioned it, I did a film, American Sculpture of the 
Sixties --that was a big exhibit at the Los Angeles County 
Museum. And I had people coming toward the camera while we 
were shooting, and they were waving and things like that, 
and I left that in the film. Because what are you going to 
do, are you hiding the camera? And it's nice. Then I had 
a wonderful shot in there: I remember we were working 
here, and a kid was outside someplace, he was coming through 
this glass door and it was locked, and he was hitting the 
window, trying to get somebody's attention to open the door. 
I have that in the film also. I think when you deal with 
those activities, like an exhibit or a Tamarind show or 



228 



going into a workshop, that little things happen that some- 
times I think you should leave in there, because then you 
know that it's being photographed, and it's something very 
warm and wonderful and friendly, that sort of thing. 
WESCHLER: I wanted to move on to some of the other litho- 
graphy workshops you've worked at. You mentioned both Gemini 
and Cirrus. Can you describe what they are and also how 
they were different from Tamarind? 

ENGEL: Oh, Gemini at that time — What was the name of that 
fellow? 

WESCHLER: Ken Tyler? 

ENGEL: Ken Tyler was running Gemini. And of course, he 
was from June Wayne. I think he had a lot of the character- 
istics of June's: in other words, he ran a very articulate 
and very well put together shop that had the same character- 
istics as Tamarind. In other words, it was a serious work- 
shop. Although I think there was a little more play, because 
Ken Tyler can also have fun, more than June Wayne under 
the circumstances. But the shop was very well run and very 
serious, very serious. He himself did two prints for me, 
and the working relationship was good. But I think he had 
a lot of June Wayne, somehow about him. I also worked with 
him a little later when Jasper Johns and [Robert] Rauschenberg 
and [Frank] Stella was there. I did a lot of still photo- 
graphy for him on these people, and that gave me a little 



229 



more insight to him and to the shop, because I did spend 
quite a bit of time. 
WESCHLER: What kind of insight? 

ENGEL: Insight of how he related to the artists. Because, 
for instance, with Rauschenberg , the works were huge, we're 
talking about big, big shapes. Whereas June never got near 
the stone, you see, Ken Tyler was on the stone. He pulled 
the prints, he did the work, he did the whole damn thing 
himself. So he was not only running the shop, Gemini, but 
he himself did the work. Whereas June ran Tamarind, but 
of course June never came near the stone. I mean, she was 
not a, like a master printer, she could never function like 
a master printer; whereas Ken was functioning as a master 
printer, and his relationship to the talent, like Stella 
and Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg — [Claes] Oldenburg was 
there, too — was very comfortable. I think also what made 
it very comfortable was because by two or three in the 
afternoon, these people were — I know Jasper Johns and 
Rauschenberg, they were by that time pretty well--how 
would I say that? — they were very looped, they were drunk, 
ah, not drunk, but I mean they were — What's another good 
expression? 
WESCHLER: High? 

ENGEL: They were — Well, high is a good word, but I 
mean on liquor. 



230 



WESCHLER: Smashed? 

ENGEL : Smashed! That's the word. That was a new experience 
for me. In fact, I have pictures where Jasper Johns is 
working and at the other end is the glass. And they were 
just drinking straight stuff, you know. But they kept up 
the work, and they never fell down. But, you see, this could 
never take place at Tamarind, because June would never allow 
bottles of liquor in the shop next to the stone, whereas 
Ken had an ambience that was quite different: very serious, 
but at the same time the ambience was much more playful or 
comfortable for these artists. 

WESCHLER: Was there tension between Ken and June after 
Gemini got started? 

ENGEL: If there was a tension, I really don't know. I know 
that, from my point of view, I feel that Ken does not like 
to be referred to him as a Tamarind alumni. But, what the 
hell? That was what he was, you know, that's where he 
learned, that's where he gained his knowledge. That's why 
Tamarind was important, because it produced people like him, 
and that was the key factor for Tamarind, to produce. 
WESCHLER: Can you describe Ken a little more specifically? 
I don't have an image. What does he look like? 
ENGEL: Oh, Ken is a rather short fellow, short and sort of 
husky. He likes to look like the fashion of the moment. He 
dresses and has an appearance almost like a grand artist. 



231 



So I think he likes to get into the pictures that way, 
because he does consider himself, and he was one before he 
turned into just a master printer. But he likes to be on 
the scene. If they're going to wear sandals, he's going to 
wear sandals; if they wear blue jeans, he's going to wear 
blue jeans; if they're going to have hair down to their 
ankles, he's going to have hair down to the ankles. So he 
likes to look at what the going rate is. I mean, that's 
him. But I always find him very friendly and pleasant. 
Also, I think he really enjoys the printing world: he enjoys 
it, it's part of his blood, that's in him. And this is 
Ken. My relation with him was always good and very friendly 
and warm. 

WESCHLER: Why did he leave L.A.? Do you know? 
ENGEL: Now, that I don't know. I think there were problems. 
There was a split between him and a partner. Maybe he 
wanted to go back there to New York. Because you got to 
remember that Ken dropped — Really he dropped all the what 
you call local talents. The minute he got Rauschenberg, 
everybody was out. He did two prints for me, and I had about 
six other drawings ready. 'Course he liked my work, he 
liked my sculptures. In fact he had one on his desk all 
the time. He had things going for me, so I prepared drawings, 
I had about four or five drawings ready. And then all of a 
sudden he got this deal with Rauschenberg, and that was the 



232 



finish of the local talent. I think later, naturally, he 
came back to some of the talents that he worked with, but 
primarily he then hung onto the tailcoat of the New York 
scene, because then came Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, 
Oldenburg, Stella, and I think he was finished with this 
area. So again, you see, this is where June was so important 
to Los Angeles: because she could have people from all over 
the world — she did — but she constantly had people from here 
working at Tamarind. Whereas Ken sort of put an end to that. 
So I was there with all those drawings, and they were never 
printed . 

WESCHLER: How about Cirrus? 

ENGEL: Well, Cirrus again was a product of Tamarind. I 
met him [Jean Milant] at Tamarind. He opened his shop and 
he did a lot of prints. I did a lot of prints with him. 
But the terrain that he was going in was a terrain that 
was much looser and let's say more organic and nothing like 
my work, which was the architectural, hard-edged, geometrical 
shape. So the relationship you had was not a good one. I 
mean, good as far as a person to person, but I realized 
that this was not the terrain that he enjoys, there was no 
joy in that for him (this is my point of view) . And naturally 
I don't work the other terrain. But I think his shop was 
good; he's done some good things. But, of course, nothing 
like Gemini or Tamarind. It was much looser, and it was more 



233 



like a shop that an artist would put up in his garage if 

he can open up the place. So that was another scene, another 

world. But the work was good, because he himself is a good 

master printer. But, see, whereas Gemini could go in any 

direction — I mean, you go to the American hard-edged color 

field painter. . . . 

WESCHLER: Kelly? 

ENGEL: [Ellsworth] Kelly, Kelly, you see, Gemini could go 

in that direction, could go in that direction with [Josef] 

Albers, no problem. Cirrus, I think there was a problem; 

it was something that was maybe not difficult but not 

comfortable for him. The other terrain is the terrain that 

I think he enjoyed. 

WESCHLER: What kind of artists are in the terrain that he 

liked? 

ENGEL: Oh boy, I have a problem here, because, see, most 

of the talent that he was working with were new to me and 

I really-- I don't know if Stephan Van Huhn had a print 

made over there that I liked and admired, I think it was 

Stephan Van Huhn who had this one print that I know, but I 

don't know. I think he did something with Cremean again. 

But the work in general was much more organic and loose. 

And I saw very little of the other kind of work. 

WESCHLER: Moving from talking about the different printers, 

let's talk about your sense of lithography. I'm sitting 



234 



below a very impressive one right here. What is this one 
called? 

ENGEL: This is really a litho I like to call Homage to 
David Smith and it's very interesting because there you 
build up the stone. In other words, you put a piece of 
shape on the stone which is like a — You know when you do 
woodcut? You take a piece of linoleum like that, and you 
put it in a stone, and then things happen, a lot of paint 
gets into the crevices, and that is something very nice, and 
that's where sometimes things are accidental. Well, of 
course again in printing, it's a nice thing to have that 
happen. Because when you work on prints, generally you're 
so articulate that your drawings, everything's so measured, 
it's always going to be in. Whereas here things can happen 
because there might be more paint getting into the crevices 
or less paint gets into the crevices, and you're looking 
for that wonderful thing, as I say, that I like to see 
happen, the discoveries. Whereas the other one, what you 
see, actually, thac's — 
WESCHLER: It's more geometrical. 
ENGEL: Yeah. And I like that but — 
WESCHLER: What's that called? 

ENGEL: I call them the New York Facade . There you know 
pretty damn well that nothing's going to happen except 
what you have on the paper and what you want to happen. 



235 



I'm much more comfortable with the medium now. I do like 

it, and also it's a wonderful thing to have twenty at once 

sometimes and not just one, you know, it's a nice feeling. 

WESCHLER: How does the lithographical work relate to the 

painting, on the one hand, and to the sculpture and also to 

your animation work? 

ENGEL: No, I don't think I could pull animation into this, 

although the end one over there, if you look at it, has a 

sense of movement like those verticals are running up and 

down. 

WESCHLER: In a way, both of these remind me to some extent 

of the Train Landscape in terms of the sense of shape and 

so forth. 

ENGEL: Yes, well, I think larger shapes I work with, and 

I carry them into my painting or into my prints or into my 

sculptures. But I don't really push that or bring it, 

although even there, on the second one, you see things grow 

from the top to the bottom, so you have a progression of 

movement, as if your camera is picking up there and then 

comes down. 

WESCHLER: And reads that way. And then it also has this 

strange kind of way of reading, obviously in perspective, 

too. It keeps on popping back as though it is a building 

facade or something. 

ENGEL: Yes. 



236 



WESCHLER: And then it's kind of startling to realize that 
it is very simple shapes that are very — 

ENGEL: Very simple, yeah. But I think as the camera moves 
down on the building — you're up there and you move it down — 
this is what will happen. In other words, I could go below 
this and see the bottom, and then everything would look 
different on the top. So I think once you work on film as 
I have been, which is a long time, you almost instinctively 
sometimes have this creeping into your work. The continuity 
idea gets into your work sometimes. But I think the important 
thing is that today I'm comfortable with the medium, I can 
work with it, and I don't have any problems like I had at 
the very beginning where I felt, "Well, when will I see a 
print?" That doesn't exist anymore. That's just a part of 
the process and I accept it. [tape recorder turned off] 
WESCHLER: Well, okay, we've just been talking about how 
to end this tape today. We've covered a lot of the things 
you've been doing in this very diverse and sort of versatile 
career. Where are you today? What are your horizons in 
terms of your art? 

ENGEL: Well, today I'm of course very much involved in 
film, films from a point of view of a painter, from a point 
of view of a graphic artist. Of course, the magic of move- 
ment is so important for me. It always has been, because 
from the very beginning I was very aware of the world of 



237 



the dance. That will always be a part of me and a part of 
my painting. So I think what will happen, I will be working 
on films, but at the same time I cannot ever quit painting, 
because I still have a big question in my head in front of 
me about films. As much as I do it and I enjoy it, the 
question mark is a big one. 
WESCHLER: How so? 

ENGEL: "Is it really a medium of consequence?" Because 
I don't find film as large a consequence. Now, I'm not 
talking about abstract films where you deal with whether 
the art is working, but I'm talking about films that I've 
been involved in, maybe involved in tomorrow, and the whole 
medium for me still looks very thin. A play, a good play, 
a well-written play is timeless; and then, you see, a 
painting is timeless. I mean, look at this situation: A 
friend will say, "I'm going to see an old film." "Oh, an 
old film. What are you going to see?" " Citizen Kane . 
This movie house shows nothing but old films." Now, he 
keeps talking abouc this word old . Now, if I said to 
him, "I'm going to see a Picasso show," I say, "I'm going 
to an early Picasso exhibit," or "I'm going to see an early 
Cezanne show." But I never can say to him that I'm going 
to go see "old paintings by Picasso." You see, so this is 
the question. It's a very big one. Because you take Citizen 
Kane, which is acclaimed as a picture of consequence, yet 



238 



you refer to it as an old film. And it is old, when you 
look at it. In many ways, it just looks like an old film. 
But you can go and see a Cezanne exhibit — I saw fairly 
recently some early Ce2annes--and even now I mention the 
word early ; I don't see old Cezannes, but early --and 
damn it, it looks like a painting that was done yesterday 
and it's going to be for tomorrow. This is a very, very 
important situation here, of looking at old films and 
looking at early art works. 

WESCHLER: Films seem to date faster than — 
ENGEL: They date faster because they're not well done. 
They date faster because the ingredients that make an art- 
work very special is not there. Also, you're dealing with 
seeing for the moment, which, naturally-- See, in film the 
costuming, the clothes date the film, the haircut would date 
a film, expressions will date a film. But I think the total 
ingredients of a film as a film art is not there yet. 
Now, there's nothing wrong with that. After all, I mean, 
when we're talking about paintings, we're talking about four 
hundred years ago, Giorgione, I don't know, four or five 
hundred years ago. When we're talking about film, we're 
talking about 1920 — 1920, nothing — we're talking about 1934. 
So it's good, because we're dealing with an art form that 
is so new. 

Also there are a lot of other things about film that 



239 



are still strange. Because when you look at a screen it's 
empty; then you run a film, and then the screen is empty 
again. So this is a strange situation. Sometimes if I see 
something very good on a screen, I would like to take that 
screen off the wall and wrap it up and take it home with 
me, you know. I don't want another film on that screen. 
Which is a horrible thing, you see. They've already destroyed 
something for me. But these are large questions, because 
the character of the film is very mediocre, and also the 
aspect of music. Now you can see a heavy play--you can see 
The Death of a Salesman on the stage, and no matter what 
happens, there's no music. In other words, the music is 
not there to help the actor. On a film, the music is very 
important, because so often the performances are so bad 
that it's the music that really hooks you into enjoying 
the film. So that's another aspect of it. As I say, on 
the stage you don't have music to help the scene, to help 
a situation. So that's another strange thing. 

Another thing is also, which is not unpleasant, but, 
you see, the fact that you have music so often in a film, 
that means that it has a choreographic character, that 
somewhere there is a dance in that scene because the music — 
How often do you see people walking from offices and you 
have music under it to emphasize the walk? Now that's 
already a choreographic character which the film takes on. 



240 



Then you have people like Chaplin, as a performer, 
which is something very, very unique. When you're that 
unique, you become an art object; not many actors have that. 
In other words, Chaplin could turn his back and walk away 
and he's still Chaplin. But he's so unique, therefore, 
that he becomes an object of art, see? Now, that is unique. 
A good dancer has that on the stage, if he's that good, or 
she's that good. They become something more than just 
being a human being. They become objects of art, they're 
that good. So these are ingredients that art has, stage 
has, but film doesn't have these things yet. 
WESCHLER: Or rarely has them. 

ENGEL: Or rarely. Or often they are like illustration of 
a text; they function more like illustration to a script. 
Now, this is good — It's not good or bad, it's not important. 
But what is important for me [is that] I find a mediiim that 
has not arrived yet as an art form, whereas the world of 
painting, you know-- You just never go to see old paintings; 
you see early works. But if you see an early work of a 
film director, regardless of his talent, they just look 
like old films. And films do destroy themselves, because 
the camera's changing, the light is changing, the approach 
to filmmaking is changing. The world of painting's changing- 
you have cubists, you have impressionists, expressionists-- 
but they still are works or art that stand time. 



241 



WESCHLER: How about something like Oskar Fischinger's 
films? Do you think that they'll age as badly? 
ENGEL: Well, Fischinger cannot age, because you take 
Study No. 7 , you're dealing with pure lines, you're dealing 
with shapes that are classic. It has a classical character: 
a line has a classical character, a square is a square, a 
circle is a circle. Those are classical shapes, and nothing 
can destroy those shapes or forms. Nothing can destroy a 
movement, see. So you're dealing with something that's 
close to art; I don't say I'm going to see "an old film of 
Fischinger." It's no old film. That's an early film, 
because you're dealing with an artist. That's the early 
work of an artist. 

WESCHLER: That is the level of film that you're aspiring 
to. 

ENGEL: I'm looking for something where I can say, "I'm 
going to see an early film" of somebody and not "an old 
film" of somebody. And I want that early work of a film- 
maker to be an early work! 

WESCHLER: Are we getting closer to that, do you think? 
ENGEL: No! No way! No way. Maybe there are moments. 
But you see, in film, sometimes when you see a film — 
Film is almost a one shot from a point of view of viewer, 
because that thrill that sometimes you get out of a film 
when you see it for the first time, those brillant little 



242 



moments of diamonds, the second time they're not diamonds. 
They fade, because that first experience was so right, and 
the second or third time they disappear. Also, films 
slow down; when you're working on a film and you're looking 
at a film for the first time because you're editing, you're 
putting it together, there is time there and it's wonderful. 
The second time, third or fourth time-- [snaps his fingers] 
those things disappear. Where at first it was brilliant, 
the second time you look at it, it's not. Because your in- 
take is so deep, your first intake is so deep that you remember, 
Whereas when you look at a Cezanne landscape, you can sit 
for one or two hours and you go back a week later or you go 
back six months later, and you discover things 1 Now, of 
course, somebody would say you can discover things in a film, 
too. But I don't find it so. I still am going back and 
seeing an old film, and I see an early Cezanne. 
WESCHLER: So in your own work, while you are doing film, 
you will also retain the painting and other things as well. 
ENGEL: Oh, yeah. Because as I say, the question mark is 
there, and it's a big one. So you have a foot in that, 
and a foot in other things, and you wonder which way. Yet 
you can't help yourself. You're working in both directions. 

But film as a medium for the painter is important. It's 
a must, because you have to work with movement. Now, this 
movement is a very interesting situation. You know, years 



243 



ago, when you had singers entertain you on a stage, they 
stood still; now today they move — groups are moving. Very 
few singers or groups will come on a stage and stand still. 
So this aspect of movement is very important, and it's very 
much of our time. That's why I think Chorus Line was 
incredibly successful, because people who went to musicals 
or went to theater, they had never really been exposed as 
if they had gone to a ballet. Why did they love it? They 
loved it because it moves. The first time on that stage 
when they're getting into position and when they're in 
position, you know — Have you seen Chorus Line ? 
WESCHLER: Yeah. 

ENGEL: Well, the first time they stand in position and 
all of a sudden they turn around and make a move, [claps 
his hands together] you know what happens in that theater? 
[He gasps, imitating the audience.] Now why? That was just 
a simple turn and a move. There's something about this 
aspect of movement that people today relate to more than 
they ever have. I think Chorus Line is probably the 
largest example of it. I see an incredible continuity here 
between the first Disney, ah "Whistle — " 
WESCHLER: "Whistle to — " oh whatever. 

ENGEL: Yeah, an incredible continuity here from that 
early Disney — I think 1927 or '29 — and a Chorus Line . 
Because there for the first time people saw on the screen 



244 



the movement and sounds, but so beautifully integrated 
that it was something very special, you realized it was 
very special. That's what happened with Chorus Line today, 
because people had never really been exposed on this very 
popular level to that aspect of movement, you know? So 
movement for me is very important. So film for me is very 
important, because I have to go that way. In other words 
there are sometimes when you have directions to go and you 
have no choice. 



245 



TAPE NUMBER: VII, SIDE ONE 
FEBRUARY 16, 19 7 8 

WESCHLER: Today, we're here with you at your studio at 
Cal Arts, in your office. Outside there are many people 
scratching on their animation boards and upstairs there ' s 
a whole show devoted to your student's works. It's a good 
place to talk more about animation. 

ENGEL: Yes. What I'd like to do first is talk about some- 
thing that often people ask when they see [my] work. They 
ask, "How come you're doing this? How come you're working 
with this kind of a straight line, this kind of hard-edged, 
architectural approach to paintings?" It's always been a 
mystery to people what makes a person go on that terrain. 
Generally I have no other words except my answer has always 
been that I think that if you are that very specific in 
your direction, it's because you had no choice. You had no 
choice. So then, how can you back that up? You have choice, 
I mean, you can say, "You could change your mind." But I 
think if I go back a little bit, then it becomes obvious 
that in the early, early stage — I'm talking about when I 
was thirteen or fourteen — that certain things happened, and 
now, when I think back, it's an indication of a direction, 
and therefore there was no choice. 

One of my early recollections was that I was with 
some friends, and we went to visit some people back in 

246 



Budapest, and there was a painting on the wall. The painting 
had a door, and from that door three dogs ran out, and they 
were in the air — One was in the air, the other landed, the 
other one was on the steps. But underneath there was a lot 
of space, and the space went back, and it had lines on it. 
Now, what was interesting in retrospect is that the dog 
didn't interest me: the empty space to me was interesting. 
That was what I was looking at, the space that went way back 
and it had lines on it. That to me was the something that 
grabbed me, and I looked at it. I never looked at the dogs; 
it was the space and the lines. 

And another interesting experience, again back in 
Budapest. Again I couldn't be more than twelve or so; I 
never knew anything about automobiles, and I couldn't care 
less. I couldn't tell one from another, and I never really 
saw that — It was something that moved. I remember one day 
I came around a corner, and there was an automobile, and I 
stopped, and I said, "I like that. This I like." You know 
what was that? I saw the front of a Rolls-Royce. Now, the 
front of a Rolls-Royce was square, the old grille. 
WESCHLER: The grille, yeah. 

ENGEL: Now, it hit me so hard that I said, "Now that I 
like, I like that car." By seeing that front, that square 
front with the lines in the grille, it again was something 
I took to. Now why would I take to this when I couldn't 



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see a car? But the shape, the design hit me; there was 
something already obvious. 

And then I think a third experience would be when I 
saw Early Masters, let's say Rubens or Rembrandt and the 
large portraits. It wasn't the head that fascinated me, 
but around the edges, where he left things unfinished, where 
you could see the texture of the brush, that portion of it 
fascinated meo 

Now, you see, these are three experiences, and I'm 
talking about when I'm around twelve, thirteen, fourteen, 
that that was the thing that grabbed me. So therefore some- 
thing was already in my gut, had to be, because at that age, 
why wouldn't I look at the faces? But I looked at this 
unfinished canvas, and even the surface of the canvas was 
almost coming through, and I felt, now this is a painting 
by itself that you could put a frame around. So this, and 
the front of a Rolls-Royce where you had these straight 
hard edges, hard structure, a piece of mechanism, that 
I was aware. So this is what I mean. And then, from 
there on, it just happened that later when I began to give 
it more thinking — now I'm talking around the age of seven- 
teen or eighteen and not been exposed to anything of what 
you'd call abstract painting of any kind, of nothing — I 
was beginning to feel and think that I could put a straight 
line or a circle, or I could put anything on a piece of 



248 



paper, and it would be a painting of itself, of its own. 
It would have its life, because it came out of a human 
being. So I started to do that kind of art work, and I 
mean I'd never seen anything like that before, but the 
feeling was that it's got to be right. Now, what's inter- 
esting here-- Because I later discovered Kandinsky, and 
Kandinsky came on this theory by coming home one night, 
and he saw one of his paintings upside down, and he said, 
"God, it looks right." Yet the content in that sense is 
gone. And [Frantisek] Kupka was another man who came to 
his terrain of nonobjective painting by eliminating more 
of the image, because he was almost a very decorative 
illustrator at the beginning. But they came through all 
that process somehow, whereas the thing with me was that 
I had none of that, and had not even been exposed to 
contemporary art, and yet I was beginning to put just lines 
and squares and triangles on a piece of paper. 

So this is the way I'd like to just explain that it's 
got to be there somewhere in the gut. And when you are 
on it at that early age and you stay with it, you have no 
choice. 

WESCHLER: Have you ever thought about how it was in your 
gut at that early age? I mean, were there were any kinds 
of support for aesthetic ideas in your family? It's a 
rather remarkable thing to find a twelve-year-old having 



249 



that interest in space, or having that interest in a grille. 
ENGEL: Yeah. Well, you see, at that age I had no idea, 
I had no words for it, the grille, or I had no words for 
it — "it's space " — but it fascinated me, that feeling of 
space on a canvas. Never the people: that was of no 
consequence. It was always the space. It's the feeling 
of mood, the dramatic mood of maybe light and dark. And 
for that I have no answer, none whatsoever. I had heard 
a lot of music at that age, because there was music around 
the family, and there was music around that world. In 
Europe, you were exposed to music. So that was the only 
thing. But the art that I was exposed to — Naturally you 
went to the museum and you saw the old Masters . 
WESCHLER: Can you describe your family a little bit, 
about what kind of background you had. 

ENGEL: Well, my family background, I would say, was rather 
simple; the only thing is that my mother did play the piano. 
So there was that sound, that musical sound. That was 
the only exposure, let's say, that came out of the family 
to me. Otherwise there was no other artistic environment. 
WESCHLER: What did your father do? 

ENGEL: Father was like a semi- jeweler-designer , but not 
of consequence, and not of anything of value. There were 
no drawings around the house. It was probably just at 
work when he did that; it was a combination of that kind 



250 



of activity in that world. But that did not expose me 
to any kind of drawing. 

But it was just in the head, so that when I was in 
high school, for instance, Emerson High School, and every- 
body had to go out on the field to draw the trees and land- 
scapes, I told the teacher--her name was Miss Goff — I 
said, "I would rather just stay in the room and make my 
own drawings and not have to look at trees for that purpose." 
And I don't know what prompted her to agree with me, because 
she said, "You can just stay in the room and do your drawings," 
whereas everybody else had to go out on the field and do 
the landscapes. Even at that time I just couldn't under- 
stand why I had to look at something to make something on 
a paper of artistic value. 

Now, again, I can't explain these things, but this is 
what I mean when you have no choice. You're going on 
something that is absolutely unexplainable . Now there is 
such a thing that you could say therefore that I'm a 
primitive, because I didn't come out of studying Kandinsky 
or by studying Kupka or the Bauhaus or Klee. So then you 
could say, "Maybe he's a primitive." Whether it's good or 
bad I don't know. But these are the principles that some- 
times guide a person into a terrain that you can't always 
explain. Or you say, "He did that because Picasso was 
doing a cubist painting." 



251 



That is something I just wanted to put down on paper 
as a record, and for what value I don't know. But there it 
is . 

WESCHLER: When did you first encounter Kandinsky? Can 
you describe your feelings? 

ENGEL: Yes, I encountered Kandinsky in Los Angeles one 
day, and it was a tremendous influence. 
WESCHLER: Under what circumstances? 

ENGEL: I think he had an exhibit on Wilshire Boulevard 
someplace. I think Hillary Bay was there as I vaguely 
remember. And for the first time I saw — 
WESCHLER: What era would this be? 

ENGEL: Oh, I think it had to be around '39, I think '39 
or '38. I saw Kandinsky for the first time, and then I 
realized that my thinking, or whatever I was doing, was 
really okay, because there it is on the walls, and it's 
real, you know? 

WESCHLER: Did he have a reputation in Los Angeles? Had 
it reached out here that Kandinsky was important? Or was 
he a relative unknown at that time? 

ENGEL: I think he probably had a presence with painters, 
but I think it was some kind of a strange situation that 
Hillary Bay — I don't know what was the contact, how she 
came to this city. But there was the exhibit, and how I 
even got there or who told me to go there, I don't even 



252 



recall that. But there it was, and for the first time I 
realized that such art existed. Because up to that moment 
I would hide my work and really not show it to anyone, 
although then much later you know I showed the work to Oskar 
Fischinger. But it was still at the very, very beginning. 
By that time I knew that such things existed. But it's 
way before that, those experiences that I think are of 
consequence. So therefore, as I say, sometimes you have 
no choice, you know, no choice. 

WESCHLER: Have you ever looked back and thought about what 
it would be like had you gone a different route? 
ENGEL: Looking back, no, I couldn't have. I could not 
have gone another route, because that particular direction 
of feeling was so strong that I had absolutely no desire, 
for instance, even to pick up a pencil and try and draw 
somebody. Although I did go to life classes and did some 
life-study work in class. But it was to me something I 
pushed myself, because I felt I should do that because 
everybody does it, it has to be done. But I could never 
get into any kind of a real effort to make that thing 
important. 'Cause I always felt that that's not me, that's 
not me, and I'd have to go back to just drawing those 
straight lines and circles and have this kind of activity 
on a canvas. That to me always felt right, felt good. 
Even now I might draw a little bit, but, you know, throw 



253 



the pencil away. It's like drinking something that doesn't 
taste good and you spit it out. That's me. Because I know 
another person next to me can be drawing away, and I can 
admire--! do admire other works, you know, there's no 
problem there — but when I get to the canvas or a paper, I 
cannot do that other work with any kind of conviction and 
generally I always end up by just tearing it or just throwing 
the pencil down. And this is I think something that's very 
special and very beautiful, because often you hear other 
people, other artists — I heard Jacques Tati when they 
asked him why did he do comedy, and Tati faced the whole 
audience at the academy and said, "I had no choice." And 
I heard that from several people. In fact, I made notes 
at one time, about six or seven pianists, very famous jazz 
pianists and some other people, and it was interesting: 
they all came up with that answer. 'Cause they said, 
"How come you didn't go into classical music — Brahms, 
Schubert, Bach — why do you do this?" I forgot his name, 
the very famous jazz pianist-- 
WESCHLER: Dave Brubeck? 

ENGEL: Somewhere of that area, and that person again said, 
"I have no choice." So I'm not the only one who ends up 
at that conclusion. 

WESCHLER: Can you describe, by the way, your work method 
when you're working on an animated — 



254 



ENGEL: Abstraction? 

WESCHLER: Abstraction. I mean how do you actually work? 
Do you work in the morning, do you work in the evening? 
How long do you work at a time? What's it like? 
ENGEL: So then this work, this abstract work eventually 
goes on into animation. By that I mean it had to go into 
movement. I generally have an idea, and sometimes I make 
a continuity board where I might plan this thing step by 
step. But I always give enough space or time that if I 
want to change anywhere in the middle, although I have a 
structure there, I can change. And if I change, then I 
let that thing happen and go until it exhausts itself 
before I get back to, let's say, the continuity that, 
originally, I planned. 

I like to work in the mornings. That's my best 
time. I can sit down at seven o'clock and do work maybe 
until one, two, or three in the afternoon. For me that's 
the best time, for me. And then during the day or any 
other time, if I have ideas, I sketch them down, I make 
notes. It can come from many sources, although when you 
see the material, it's pure abstraction. But the inspiration 
could come from various places, could come from listening 
to a good play. I remember when I saw Uncle Vanya in 
New York with George C. Scott, the rhythm of the speech 
was so special that that turned me on, just turned me on to 



255 



wanting to do — By "wanting to do" I don't mean I copy 
or interpret, but it turns me on "to do." And then I 
sit down and get into motion. But, as I say, that some- 
times for me is something that motivates me. Or, then, of 
course, my paintings, ideas come from my paintings or maybe 
other paintings that I see that might kick up an idea for 
me for an abstract film. 

WESCHLER: One of the things I was really struck by in 
your abstract films that I saw was how they felt like 
thinking. I mean, they had that process of transformation 
that is like a person thinking about shapes, movement and 
so forth. You mentioned that you can change while you go 
along, but generally do you have the whole idea for the 
film almost in reels in your head that you then work out 
on paper, or do you get the ideas as you're working with 
the paper? 

ENGEL: Some segments I would have in my head, some segments 
Others, I work out. And other areas I leave it — it's 
like an open end — I leave these things to happen. Or let's 
say you move into a direction that you would never even 
know is there, but by moving in that direction, you open 
up another avenue of ideas. That's why it is good to be 
open-ended. But when I finish, it's got to have a sense 
of structure. Not necessarily a beginning, a middle, and 
an end, but it still has a sense of structure, so that you 



256 



feel a sense of completion, or it ends. I think in these 
abstract films, it's really important the way you start, 
and I think it's even more important sometimes the way you 
go out. It's as important as how a person on the stage 
leaves a stage: you can leave a stage and yet you'll 
still be there for some time before you're out. And that 
aspect of it will be also in my film at the very end. It's 
got to be that way. And that is in a sense the structure. 
WESCHLER: And that sense of structure is there from the 
start, do you think? Or it becomes apparent as you're 
working on it? 

ENGEL: Some of it is there from the beginning, and some 
of it will just present itself. Because I think the 
beautiful aspect is that you must discover something while 
you're in work. You've got to discover new ideas and new 
avenues. Otherwise you lock yourself in and nothing's 
going to happen except what you already planned. But I 
like to discover these other ideas or shapes of forms, 
gestures, by always leaving time and space for you. 
WESCHLER: Do you find that your initial inspirations for 
films take the form of something like a premise for a 
film, like "In this film I'm going to retain this triangle 
through various permutations? Is it that kind of verbal 
premise, or is it something that's — 
ENGEL: No, I think it's something that should be that way: 



257 



You work with the same image and you bring it back, you 
send it away, bring it back from another point of view and 
give that shape other opportunities. Because it makes all 
the difference whether a shape comes in from the top, goes 
in the side or comes in from the bottom, or goes back into 
space, comes back in front of you from space. This aspect 
of repeat is very important, because it's very important 
in music: you repeat the melody, you repeat the tune. 
This I'm very aware of, and that is why I repeat. Dancers 
do that: they do the same step or several steps, and some- 
time later they come back and they do the same step again. 
I think that's very beautiful. It makes the whole thing 
more together, it's structure. 

WESCHLER: It's definitely the case that in your animation 
abstracts that I saw the other day, when a shape leaves 
your space, leaves the frame, you have a definite sense of 
its presence out there waiting to come back in; or if it 
doesn't come back in — It's not at all just what goes on 
in the frame; it's as though the whole room becomes filled 
with it. 

ENGEL: Yeah, because when you work on a film, you have to 
immediately realize that although you're working for a 
canvas which is immediately in front of you, but in film 
there is a space, the canvas is endless. So whether it's 
right, left, top, or bottom, the space is there, and the 



258 



space is around the canvas. I say canvas , I should say 
screen . Everytime I move anything, if it goes out a 
certain way, it also sometimes has a natural rhythm which 
has to turn around. It has no choice, 'cause the way it 
goes out, it will come back in a certain way. It has to 
reappear. Therefore when something goes off the screen, 
it's either waiting in the wings, because then it comes to 
a total stop, or the going out has such rhythm and style 
that it has no choice because it's going to make a turn 
outside the screen and come back again. Oh yes. 
WESCHLER: Do you have fantasies of the turns and so forth 
that are going on off the screen that you aren't drawing? 
As you have several shapes go out, do you imagine the 
pirouettes that are going on? 

ENGEL: Oh yes, because when I design and I have a screen, 
if a shape is going that way, then I know that the natural 
rhythm will be here: it either comes in here or it can 
come here, but I already establish a natural rhythm. Now, 
if I have something that goes up, chances are that that 
might go up to infinity and that can go away, or it can 
stop and wait in the wings. But if I have any kind of a 
rhythm, obvious rhythm, then that rhythm has a life out 
there, so it has to come back. So I'm very aware of this 
aspect of it, which I call natural rhythm. 
WESCHLER: Looking at the walk that we took upstairs in 



259 



your space, what we had were several pages from your 
animation that were hung on the wall almost as if they 
were drawings themselves, to be looked at as paintings or 
drawings. How do you think generally animation should be 
read when it's in a situation like that, when you're showing 
your stuff up there? 

ENGEL: I think when you see animation in continuity, 
which already is in the work, and this is a by-product of 
a film, I think you should be able to enjoy them, some- 
times separately. Sometimes they become a piece of art; 
sometimes I take a piece from that and make it into a large 
drawing or a large painting. But also I think it has more 
presence in total continuity when you see the progression 
and you see the process of movement; I think then it has 
a life of its own. Because if you take out a single 
drawing it is a complete item, that's it. But when you see 
a group, then you have an idea that that one drawing is of 
no consequence. The fifty is of consequence. 
WESCHLER: Do you see yourself-- This is kind of a silly 
question but it leads into a whole other set of questions. 
Do you see yourself as an artist who makes films or as 
filmmaker who does paintings, or-- 

ENGEL: I think I see myself as an artist who works into 
the film world. It had to come first. I mean, for me it 
had no other way. The drawing aspect of it, the design of 



260 



it, it came first, and then film was the next natural step, 
because so much of that stuff has a feeling of movement 
in it. And also it was, let's say, also part of me. My 
first exposure to art was through the ballet, so that was 
a very important moment for me. But the drawing had to 
eventually move, it had to go someplace. 

WESCHLER: And yet throughout this whole process of moving 
into animation, you've retained your painterly side and 
your lithography and so forth as another facet. How do you 
see those two related to each other? You mentioned that 
occasionally you take images from your films and work them 
out in painting. Does it work the other way also? 
ENGEL: No, but mostly when you work with animation and 
you work with shapes and you move them around logically, 
which is the natural rhythm, the natural turn, then you 
come upon compositions which you could no way get there, 
no [other] way that you could get them. 

WESCHLER: As an example of the things that you couldn't 
anyway get to, you showed me some geometrical shapes that 
started out to be in animation but just weren't going to 
make it as animation. 

ENGEL: No, it was much too complicated and much too 
difficult, and I just couldn't really go with that. But 
I came on some wonderful images, and I made those images 
into prints. Again, that's the beauty of this thing: 



261 



these two mediums help each other, they give. Because here 
I'm working on animation and I arrive at ideas that I can 
turn into art work as separate objects or pieces by them- 
selves. So they give to each other. 

WESCHLER: I think later, at the last session, we'll look 
at the specific art pieces, paintings and so forth, and 
talk in detail about structure and so forth. But it would 
be helpful for me, independent of talking about them, to talk 
about the history of your relations with dealers and that 
kind of thing. I think it would be helpful for people. 
ENGEL: Yeah. 

WESCHLER: I noticed in looking at your resume that you 
particularly had dealer relationships with Paul Kantor 
and Esther Robles. 

ENGEL: Yes, I had a dealer relationship with Paul Kantor; 
that was my first gallery. 

WESCHLER: Can you talk a little bit about him and about 
the shows that you did there? 

ENGEL: Well, Paul was the first one on the Los Angeles 
scene that was showing contemporary art work. He was a 
difficult person. I think he still is, but he was good 
for Los Angeles because he opened up the whole terrain. I 
think I had about six or seven one-man shows with him. He 
always had a lot of simpatico for the work; he liked the 
work, and the relationship was good between us. But Paul 



262 



also had other ideas, and I think the stock market was one 
of those big items. 
WESCHLER: How so? 

ENGEL: Well, I think he was beginning to buy a lot of 
stocks. Then things began to happen to him which was not 
very pleasant, because it just made him so damn nervous 
that he began to itch. That lasted for a couple of years. 
But I think he helped the city in the sense that he brought 
really contemporary art on the scene. He was one of the 
first ones that had a large presence. But the thing about 
Paul was that he never really promoted anybody. He was 
not like the New York dealers, where they had artists and 
they would see that the artist would have a chance to go 
to other museums, or take the whole exhibit and make sure 
that exhibit would go to universities. Maybe it was too 
early for Los Angeles to think that way. But, anyway we 
never had that. It was always just have the show, have 
the exhibit, which lasted approximately a month, then the 
exhibit would come down, and then he would hold maybe half 
a dozen pieces for sales after the exhibit would come down. 
But we never had any plans, any ideas of how to make the 
next step, where to take this material. It really just 
came off the wall and went into the closet. 
WESCHLER: You describe him as difficult. Can you flesh 
that out a little bit? 



263 



ENGEL: Well, you know, you don't want to be unpleasant 
about it, but he was very difficult. By that I mean that 
he really never had much good or friendly comment about 
other people. I don't know what made Paul the way he was, 
but he was always more tearing people, clawing people, and 
not where he would build a person or try to develop or 
encourage. That was not there. In fact, I think that was 
a reason I had to leave, because to go in there on week- 
ends or other times and not hear something where he would 
be building, it becomes very tiring and frustrating, and 
eventually I had to move. 

WESCHLER: Do you think he was a powerful force in the 
city besides with the people he dealt with? 
ENGEL: I think he became very powerful. 
WESCHLER: In what way? 

ENGEL: Both as a dealer and also as a connoisseur, and 
also I think people were beginning to trust him to recommend 
paintings to buy. I think when he had his first big 
[Ernst Ludwig] Kirchner show, I think that was practically 
a sell-out. It was a big Kirchner show, and I think that 
really set Paul up big. I think after that he became 
somebody that serious collectors would talk to, ask him 
advice. Eventually he became a legend practically, sometime 
much later. Because if you look at him in a few years, a 
comparatively few years, look where he's at. I mean he's 



264 



out there at Sotheby [ Parke Berne t] , buying Degas and 

Cezanne drawings for collectors. He's had to, because 

he bought two or three drawings which ran over a half 

million dollars. So he's established himself. 

WESCHLER: Was he as gruff with his collectors as he was 

with everyone else? 

ENGEL: I think he was in general, maybe until he found 

out that there was something very lucrative there. Because 

generally people would come in the gallery, and often they 

left and said, "That's the last time, no more!" Oh yes. 

And so this is what's interesting about him: he was that 

difficult and rough, and still he maintained a presence 

that grew into large importance. 

WESCHLER: Do you have any particular anecdotes about things 

he said, things that come to mind? 

ENGEL: No, I don't have anything at the moment. But he had 

a very good eye. He had a very good head and a good eye, 

because I remember I think they went into hock to buy a 

de Kooning and either a [Theodore] Stamos or a [William] 

Baziotes. I mean, really, to go and borrow money from a 

bank to buy those things, you've got to have some insight. 

And this he had, because, after all, he came into the art 

from the newspaper--he was writing for the cannery [workers 

union] — and from that he moved into opening the gallery. 

So, again, you see, you had that something that you can't 



265 



explain, and it was there. Because he put on the first 
[Richard] Diebenkorn show. 

WESCHLER: Was Josephine Kantor part of the operation 
actively? 

ENGEL: Yes, Josephine, his wife, was very much part of 
the operation. In fact, this is a good story. [laughter] 
We were up at one of his collectors. Josie had a habit of 
getting kind of drunk, and when she got that way, she would 
just say anything. I remember we were sitting at this bar 
of this friend who had a lot of paintings from the Paul 
Kantor Gallery, and Paul was just going on, talking about 
art and all that stuff. And then he stopped, and Josie 
just looked and said, "You fucking philosopher. That's 
what you are, a fucking philosopher." [laughter] And it 
was so funny, you know, because here we are sitting in 
mixed company, and Josie — just pow [still laughing] blasting 
him. At the same time it was very cute and very funny, but 
it was so honest! I think she was a--what do you call?-- 
a sensitive person, very sensitive. It's again — Where 
the hell did that come from? Because I remember when I 
first met them they lived somewhere near Exposition [Park] , 
somewhere near the museum, and I think their room was not 
much bigger than this, or maybe a little bigger. The 
kitchen was that big. And they had one reproduction of a 
Picasso on the wall. That was their total art, you know? 



266 



And yet at that time we were already going to galleries 
together, you know what I mean? 
WESCHLER: Right. 

ENGEL: And here's this one lousy reproduction of a Picasso 
on the wall. The whole thing started with that. 
WESCHLER: Why do you suppose he stayed in Los Angeles if 
he had so much contempt for the local scene? 

ENGEL: I think he went to New York, and he lived there and 
all that. But in New York there's another type of human 
being, and I think after about two or three years, I think 
about two or three years, he came back. I think the way 
people are out here, whatever that is, the chemistry was 
just working better for him. He came back; he didn't like 
New York. New York is quite different; I think you need 
much more sophistication, and I think you — He had no 
manners, you know, not really, and I think in New York 
you've got to have that. He just didn't like the scene, 
although he thought that would be for him, because by that 
time he became a private dealer. It turned out to be not 
the place for him. So there is a difference, a texture 
difference between the New York crowd and what we have out 
here, which is very primitive. And a lot of it is not 
honest, this feeling for art — it's not really honest. 
WESCHLER: You mean in New York? 
ENGEL: No, here: it's not really honest. Not that you 



267 



don't have some; you do, you know. But we're talking 
generalities. There are just some kinds of people who 
just have to buy things because either it's going to make 
them look important or because it costs a lot of money, 
but it's not really to live with. Whereas in New York I 
met a lot of people, and they love it, it's their life, 
you know? They wouldn't let a painting go out of their 
apartment, because it would be just like a child lost out 
there someplace. That's something that's an honest, honest 
love for art. 

WESCHLER: Does it bother you when a work of yours is 
bought by someone who you don't feel is going to really 
appreciate it? 

ENGEL: Oh yes, yeah. In fact I have turned down a lot 
of opportunities like that. Not even mentioning names, 
but I remember some time back when this man wanted to buy 
paintings from me, and I kept telling him, "You don't like 
my work; you're gonna buy because I'm a friend, and that's 
no good. That's absolutely no good." So I have a very 
strong point of view on that. 

WESCHLER: The other major dealer you had here was Esther 
Robles . 

ENGEL: Esther Robles, yes. From Paul I went to Esther 
Robles. They were very pleasant people, but I think my 
work has not much simpatico. This kind of work that I was 



268 



always working with is kind of a hard-edged, almost 
architectural approach. The simpatico is not really here. 
It's never been really popular with a lot of people, let 
me put it that way. But I think not much here either. 
The Robles are very nice. They are people who are very 
sweet and nice to be with, and they were very gentle people 
and all that. But again, I don't know why they went into 
the gallery — Because it was business, I guess, but that 
other texture was missing again. Again the same thing 
happened as with the others: you put up the exhibit and 
it came down. You put up forty paintings, and the exhibit 
is over, and it went in the back into the closet. You see, 
again, there is no movement, there's no motion. It doesn't 
have the professional presence like a New York dealer. A 
New York dealer, when you have a show, they want to make 
sure that this exhibit will go travel someplace, so they 
call up people and say, "Come on in; I have something to 
show you." There's a commitment. And again, you see, with 
the Robles it was just putting it up and taking it down. 
It always was like a dead end. 

WESCHLER: Are there any dealers in Los Angeles that had 
the kind of intensity that New York dealers have had over 
the years? 

ENGEL: I think maybe the best person was at one time Felix 
Landau. I think Felix had that feeling. And then later on 



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this other fellow came, Blum, David Blum, 
WESCHLER: Irving Blum. 

ENGEL: Irving Blum. But by that time I think the whole 
scene — See, then, it took on a whole different character. 
By then people were New York-wise, and all of a sudden that 
thing that had never ocurred to us before now began to take 
the scene; all that is important, you know. But I think 
Felix, because he was before Irving Blum, he had that some- 
thing, you felt that. But Irving Blum, I think, was the 
first one who was really working on that way. But then, 
you see, the whole scene changed, the whole art scene. Art 
became important. You became a celebrity all of a sudden. 
Art meant big money. And now the publications were beginning 
to come out from New York. Now you have Stella and Noland 
and Jasper Johns coming on the scene; and all of a sudden, 
it explodes. So I'm using the experience of New York-wise, 
of knowing that you have to go there. Whereas when I had 
exhibits at the Whitney Museum or at the Chicago Art Institute, 
we would never think of going there, to be there, you know? 
But see, then it changed, when you realized, you've got to 
be there, I mean you have to go. So you see what took 
place. That took place. That's why so often you hear 
people say, "Nothing happened here before 1960." A lot of 
things happened here, but what happened was very naive, and 
very simple, and very honest. But it changed. And then 



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you realized that oh-oh, oops, you made a mistake, you 
should have gone to Chicago [laughter] , you should have 
gone to New York when you were at the Whitney. 
WESCHLER: You did go back to New York. 

ENGEL: Oh much later, but not when I first was exhibiting 
there. 

WESCHLER: Was it partly the pressure of this need to be 
in New York that made you go back? 

ENGEL: No, later on I wanted to go back. I realized the 
changes, the necessity, that it had to be, you had to go 
back. If you had an exhibit, you should be there at least 
ten days before so you had a chance to meet the people. 
Also, the New York dealers function different, because 
they introduce you, they give you dinner parties, whereas 
here those things didn't happen. 

WESCHLER: How about actually working in New York? Was 
it important to do art in New York, as opposed to Los 
Angeles? 

ENGEL: Oh, I really don't think so. I think if you go 
back there and you stay a couple of weeks and you have a 
chance to view and talk to people, I think then you can do 
it anyplace. I think then the further you go away some- 
place, the better off you are: you can then be quiet and 
be on your own. Because New York can be very nice by 
going to so many places. Your phone rings at eight in the 



271 



morning, and you get invited, and there it is. No, I think 
you can work anyplace; I can work anyplace, I know that. 
But it's good to go, to see. It's very important to see, 
it just gives you that extra something that you would never 
have. 

WESCHLER: So you would recommend to your students here, 
for instance, that it's important for them to go back to 
New York? 

ENGEL: Oh yeah. I tell my students to go back to New York 
and look at things. But then if you go back, see every- 
thing, go and see plays, go and see dance concerts. That's 
the big difference, I think; they go today, and they under- 
stand. Maybe it's easier to travel today than it was then; 
today's students, they go to Europe. Well, twenty, twenty- 
five years ago, you couldn't really see high school kids 
just pack up and go to Europe. But today they do. 
WESCHLER: Do you miss the naivete, the innocence of Los 
Angeles in the fifties at all? Are there things that are 
lost that you're sad to see gone? 

ENGEL: Well, I think it's just like growing up: When 
you're a child, you function as a child, you know. [phone 
rings] 



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TAPE NUMBER: VII, SIDE TWO 
APRIL 1, 1978 

ENGEL: [l was] just commenting on my coming into the world 
of painting and so early into the world of what is pure 
nonobjective, and from that moving onto what became my 
world of imagery, with the hard-edged, geometrical, archi- 
tectural construction. I think what is important here, 
because almost all the painters or people who set the trend — 
I mean, you take a man like Kandinsky, who came to his way 
of painting, which is nonobjective, through a process of 
elimination. He was painting and then he came to this idea, 
especially this one point where he came home one night, and 
a painting was upside down, and the room was dark, and he 
realized that he had images there that were working without 
the content. And also then you take Kupka, one of the early 
ones, who again came to work into nonobjective world 
through a process of first working at all other ideas. 
And fairly recently after the cubists, there was a trend, 
a direction, or Mondrian set a direction. But I never had 
that approach, I never had that process. I think, therefore, 
I could be classified as some kind of primitive. Because 
my background was always — 

Well, when I was living back in Budapest as a child, 
[my exposure] was purely classical as far as seeing things. 
We went to the museum on Sundays and saw nothing but the 

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classics, the Rubenses, the Rembrandts, the Titians, and 
that world. Of course, I was, you know, early, I mean, 
twelve, thirteen years old. But later, in high school, 
here, I started to have an idea, again, which is the mystery. 
The idea was, why couldn't I just put a line or two lines 
on a piece of paper and it would become a painting, it 
would become a piece of art? A reason I mention this is 
because, see, I'd never seen any abstractions or anything 
of its kind, but the mind was already telling or pointing 
the way of there must be other directions, there must be 
other ways, there must be a new visual world, so there also 
must be new discoveries. And for that there is absolutely 
no answer why at that early time in my life, never been 
shown or seen, been exposed to this kind of painting, and 
yet there I am in high school and I'm working with the 
squares, the triangles, and the lines. 
WESCHLER: And this is in the middle of Illinois. 
ENGEL: Evans ton. 
WESCHLER: Evanston, Illinois. 

ENGEL: And what was interesting was that there was a 
teacher who I don't think she really knew what the hell 
I was doing, but she let me just go ahead on that terrain 
and she never said no. So when other people were handing 
in trees and nudes and still lifes, I would hand in 
drawings of lines, and lots of circles and squares. 



274 



WESCHLER: What year was this about? 

ENGEL: Around 1938, you see, '37, '38. And she never 
resented or stopped me from doing that. But there I was 
doing this kind of ideas, and the concept was simply, 
why must a drawing be something that you look at? And that 
was just — That came from the gut, you see. That came 
from the head, as I say, without any previous process of 
going through a certain kind of painting development and 
arriving to that. So that is where it all started. One 
interesting experience I can recall now — it's more inter- 
esting now than it was then, then it was meaningless — is 
when I saw an automobile for the first time that there I 
really was taken with it and it stopped me cold. It was 
the front of a Rolls-Royce. Because it had the square 
and the straight lines. I looked at it, and I said, 
"This is a beautiful automobile." I knew nothing about 
automobiles, I couldn't care less. And yet that shape 
struck me as something very exciting. So this is that 
small texture that once sometime you hang on and you say, 
"How come you didn't respond to the curves or the Venus 
or all the other borrowed things you find in Middle Europe?" 
This was the only thing I responded to, was this square 
nose. At that age, you see. 

So then, later, when I was putting these ideas on 
paper, I was very much alone. I wouldn't even show this 



275 



stuff to people because I felt that was so strange, or 
weird, that people would just not have any simpatico with 
that kind of world, painting, or drawing world. Then, of 
course, I kept that going purely instinctive and not even 
what you call any kind of a hard intellectualization . But 
all of a sudden this idea of a straight line became — A 
feeling of hard-edged, architectural was something that 
became part of me. And I kept working with that. Then, 
of course, when I realized later that there was a Kandinsky, 
then I felt, let's say, a little more comfortable with the 
idea that in a sense I was not alone, that these things 
have been in motion with other people doing it. But at 
that time, I think it was around 19 40 when I first saw a 
Kandinsky exhibit in Los Angeles, by that time, and then 
I realized that he was on the right track and there is 
nothing strange about it. There's nothing weird. And it's 
around us. So naturally then nothing stops you, and you 
feel that you are right. 

WESCHLER: Much later there was in Los Angeles a whole 
group which was called a hard-edged group, the "[Four] 
Abstract Classicists" show at the L.A. County Museum [in 
1959] , for example — Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin, John 
McLaughlin, for instance. Did you have any particular 
simpatico with them personally? 
ENGEL: Well, I had exhibits way before that. I had a first 



276 



exhibit in 19 45, a one-man exhibit of geometrical, hard- 
edged painting. That was way before Benjamin or any of 
these people who are doing anything like that. Way before 
Feitelson was doing anything like that. So actually they 
came on the scene much, much later. 

WESCHLER: When they did come on the scene, did you converse 
with them, or did you work with them at all? 
ENGEL: Well, I knew Feitelson very well. But Feitelson 
still was not working in that direction. Feitelson still 
was not working in that direction. Feitelson was still 
working with like a head of an ox, you know, with surrealist 
dimensions. So he wasn't working in that way at all. I 
was the only one in that scene. And of course, Frederick 
Kahn, who no one knew and knows, who had a gallery on 
Sunset Boulevard. He was a hard-edge, geometrical painter, 
a very sweet kind of painting world. He had an art school 
later on Melrose, where now you have [Cafe] Figaro. So he 
was there. The only other person at that time was Fischinger. 
And with Fischinger I had an exhibit. But Karl Benjamin 
came on much later and Feitelson, much much later. 
WESCHLER: How about John McLaughlin? 

ENGEL: John McLaughlin was on the scene, but I think he 
also came after, I'm pretty sure, came after '45, '46, 
or '47. But it was already then an introduction that other 
people of Los Angeles were working that terrain. Of course. 



277 



McLaughlin's work for me was a little too close — It's 
not Mondrian, but it's a little of that terrain, the 
incredible simplicity and a feeling of space on the canvas. 
WESCHLER: Did you know these people personally? McLaughlin? 
ENGEL: Yes, I knew him, but just in as far as meeting him 
at the gallery, because he was then quite an elderly 
gentleman. I always admired his work, and I felt that 
he was something very special in Los Angeles. Karl Benjamin, 
also. I knew Karl because he was showing with the Esther 
Robles Gallery where I was showing. And I think he had 
some very good work going then. I don't really know when 
Feitelson started his first hard-edged paintings. But 
when I had my first exhibit in the city, no one was working 
that terrain. 

WESCHLER: Did you feel left out of the "Abstract Classicist" 
show? It's striking that you weren't included in it. 
ENGEL: I think the reason was because, if I remember well, 
I think maybe I was in Paris then. I was not in Los 
Angeles. I'm pretty sure. That's when that thing came 
on. Because also the word "hard-edge" was initiated by 
Jules Langsner, you know. And Langsner knew me well. But 
I don't think I was in the city. I think that happened 
when I was away in Paris. Even now, or lately, when you 
have exhibits like that, or they're talking about it, it's 
very seldom that I get mentioned. Because, now, the 1949 



278 



Chicago national show, which was called "Abstract and 
Surrealist American Art"-- That was Mrs. [Katharine] Kuh 
who was then director of the museum. She invited me. She 
saw my painting which was very hard-edgey but small shaped 
and very structured. That was in there, and that was in 
1949. But I think after that, something happened. Maybe 
because I left. Or maybe because I was also in love with 
films, like UPA, I felt there was a resentment there. 
WESCHLER: How so? 

ENGEL: Because I was involved in films. 
WESCHLER: Who resented it? 

ENGEL: Well, we don't want to put it in print. Feitelson, 
I think. Because Feitelson was quite a champion of mine 
at the earlier stage. I'm going around 1946-47. He was 
quite a champion of mine. Let's say he was an elderly 
gentleman, and he was promoting me or recommended me. But 
I think the thing came about that I was working in films. 
At that time that whole area had a very bad taste if you 
worked in films; and I think I was really then sort of 
pushed aside or left out. 

WESCHLER: So you were thought of as an animator who also 
occasionally dabbled in painting, as opposed to — 
ENGEL: Yes. But it was more [than] that, because I had 
an exhibit practically one every two years. Always with 
at least thirty or forty paintings. But continuously. And 



279 



was showing in international shows, American shows, you 
know. So I was working all the time. It's just that some 
people can do that and some can't. I think all it really 
takes is a kind of energy that some of us have. You know 
how people go home at five o'clock and they say, "I'm beat." 
Well, I never had that feeling. I was able to work, you 
know, maybe twenty hours a day, and maybe have four or 
five hours of sleep. 

WESCHLER: When were you doing your painting? Specifically, 
what times of days would you be coming in to work? 
ENGEL : Well, I would be doing paintings anytime of the 
day or nights, or early mornings. My best time was always 
early mornings. In other words, if I start a painting at 
six o'clock in the morning, you know, and go till nine 
o'clock, for me, that sometimes was enough. Because I 
don't work, I never did work all day on things. I could 
only work maybe half a day. The rest of it would be maybe 
sketching or thinking or doing other things. But it's 
just the way you're put together that you can manage that, 
and a lot of people can't. I don't understand. I've no 
answer for all that. 

WESCHLER: We've talked about the origins of your painting 
and your imagery, and we've talked about its reception 
here in Los Angeles. Can you just give us a general over- 
view of some of the major themes that you've worked on in 



280 



painting? Also, perhaps chronologically, what phases of 

your painting would be important to think about? 

ENGEL: I think the early part would be the terrain where 

I would call discovery. Of discovering things: shapes, 

forms, sizes, the characteristics of the canvas, the edge of 

the canvas, you know, all that. I think the first years 

was that. The quality of paint, and how it sits on the 

canvas. And the raw canvas, working on the gesso board. 

And then I got more and more involved working with gouache. 

Again, it's a terrain of discovery. But primarily, it was 

always a sense of putting structures on the canvas. I 

could never really get involved talking about edges, because, 

what the hell, you're locked into a canvas anyway, and 

you have the edge. So I couldn't see making a big deal 

out of that space. You have a sense of construction, of 

depth, or foreground ideas. All that I think was part of 

my thinking. Primarily a feeling of getting depth with 

color, that is the terrain of thinking. Or the other one 

is to put these hard, straight lines, edges. Because for 

me, I always felt that the straight line, the really straight, 

is the most civilized thing there is. That is really, 

truly an invention of a civilization, the straight line. 

And I think that goes back to architecture, the straight 

line. Because nature is full of curves, you know, very 

baroque, very beautiful. But if you see a landscape, then 



281 



you see a house in it, one house, and that house has an 
edge, that's your straight line. And that is done by 
human being. That's a man creates that. Now, I don't 
know if I'm not going to be way off here, but I remember 
when I saw Stanley Kubrick's 2001 , is that it? 
WESCHLER: Right, 2001 . 

ENGEL: I realized one thing. At the very beginning you 
have an incredible landscape which is all curves. Then 
those monkeys or whatever; again they are full of that, 
curves. Now what was that thing that frightened them? It 
was a straight line. That shape that came into their 
landscape frightened the hell out of them. Now, it's 
interesting that no one ever commented on this. But 
that was the only shape that a human being can make. That's 
civilization. Whether it's good or bad is not the point. 
The point is that that straight line is the most civilized 
kind of gesture or comment. Maybe that is something that 
appealed to me. Because if you go to an other terrain 
which is a curved line, which is a sensuous world, maybe 
that wasn't my world. Although often when I had exhibits, 
let's say with that kind of structural thing, or like this 
one — [points to a work] 
WESCHLER: What's this called here? 

ENGEL: That's The Roman Windows , that's Rome. And still 
on that the critics were commenting, although I worked with 



282 



that kind of structure, still there is a kind of sensuality 

in these paintings. 

WESCHLER: Which also comes out later on in some of your 

animations. You get curved lines and so forth. 

ENGEL : Yes. And I'm very aware when I work with a curved 

line in that world that I am in this other terrain which 

is the terrain of the sensuous. I often like to contrast 

that with the straight lines, which stand as the pure 

intellect, the most civilized pieces of creation, the straight 

line. 

WESCHLER: It's interesting that you bring this up, because 

I've often, looking at the things in this room while we've 

interviewed, particularly some of these lithographs-- What 

is this one called here? 

ENGEL: That's New York Rhythms . 

WESCHLER: Well, some of these other ones, and then also 

The Roman Windows , are really architectonic in a sense. I 

mean, really New York Rhythms reads like buildings at one 

level, even though it's just black and white shapes. 

ENGEL: I think it would be then a natural thing because 

the only thing that attracts me are the cities. I love 

the cities. I love New York; I love those tall buildings. 

The only place that I can really relax is when I go to New 

York; that to me is relaxation. If I have to go to Hawaii, 

places like that, I would go just out of my head. I can't 



283 



relax there. I can relax in a city, and it fascinates me. 
WESCHLER: What makes you relax in the city? What about 
the city? 

ENGEL : Just the presence, just the very presence and the 
environment that I'm walking around in. I mean the streets, 
the length of the streets, the buildings, that fascinates 
me. It gives me a sense of well-being. 

Another interesting thing with the straight line for 
me, always has been, is now when you have a straight line, 
a straight line is full of possibilities. 
WESCHLER: How so? 

ENGEL: Because everything starts there. The minute I 
bend a straight line, I'm already committing myself to a 
direction or to an action or to a movement. So when there 
is a straight line, I can look at it as the most forceful 
and the most active part of a composition, because of what 
could happen there. Everything else in the scene is 
committed already, except that straight line. Now, I 
might even go a strange direction. For instance, [Rudolf] 
Nureyev comes on the stage in the middle of a dance scene 
and he stops and he stands still: that to me is often the 
most exciting moment, because of the expectation of what 
will happen now. The minute he moves, he's in motion, the 
commitment is already there. And although it is very 
interesting and exciting, the commitment is there and you're 



284 



in motion and the expectation is now, already, left behind. 
Now, I am paralleling these things with the straight line 
because I haven't heard much comments on that aspect of 
it in this character . So when people see straight lines 
and say, "There is no movement," and stuff like that, I 
don't think they understand what the possibility is, what 
it hides. 

WESCHLER: What it contains. 
ENGEL: What it contains, yes. 

WESCHLER: Certainly another element besides, just looking 
at some of the things in your room here, besides the level 
of the straight line and the civilized form is your pig- 
ments and so forth which are more parallel to your animation. 
For example, I'm looking at the lithograph you did at 
Tamarind over there, and that is kind of almost an animation 
on a single — There's so much action and so much movement, 
it's — 

ENGEL: Yes. It's called Red Poppies , it's a Tamarind 
print. Again you have all that action, but at the same 
time you have these very hard edges. The structures, which 
could be a building, if you want to read that into it, but 
that holds everything somehow down and everything else is 
just moving about. 

WESCHLER: Tremendously dynamically. 
ENGEL: Yes. But again, I need that terrain that I can 



285 



work around. This kind of thing that settles down and, 
pow, puts a strong presence on a canvas. But at the very 
beginning, when I did work at Tamarind, I didn't know the 
technique, or I didn't know the mechanics, so I went into 
terrain which was very loose, because I just didn't know 
what to do with the medium. It was sometime much later 
when I went back that I did things that were much more 
related to my thinking and feeling. But it's a natural 
thing, I think, when you go into a new process is that you 
work another terrain. 

Another thing is when you work in a new terrain or 
you want to create new dimensions and you're looking for 
things and you want to create new visual forms: I think 
it's very important to realize that often you come to 
that terrain if you throw away all the material that you 
worked with before. In other words, if you realize that 
Jackson Pollock became a Pollock because he threw the brush 
away, that's very important. If he stayed with the brush, 
the drips would never have come about. So it's not always 
that continuity from one painting to another. No, he just 
threw the brush away. [Pierre] Soulages did the same thing, 
[Franz] Kline in a sense did the same thing; it's not as 
obvious as Pollock. But if you realize the important thing 
was the man threw the brush away and whatever he picked up 
to work with, a new world of images was born, you see? 



286 



That's a very simple statement, and yet people have not 
commented on that. It's simple. Let's say if you came 
to a studio and you wanted to do something, and you said 
"Oh, damn it, I left my brushes home," but you got to do 
something, you know? So you pick up something and you 
work with that; that's very important. That's what happened, 
Now, again, today you see the painters are picking up their 
brushes because they're going back into magic realism, 
stuff like that. What are they using? They're using the 
brush, you see? 

WESCHLER: Going back to what we've talked about, the early 
stages of your work, I'm again trying to get a sense 
chronologically what different phases you're concerned 
with. We talked about a period of discovering. How did 
that evolve? What became the next phase of your work? 
ENGEL: Well, in that world I think I was a bit in limbo. 
Sometimes you are locked into some ideas and you have a 
difficult time giving it up, which sometimes can be tragic. 
So I was working very loose for a while. Maybe that lasted 
for three or four years. 

WESCHLER: What general period is this? 

ENGEL: That would be before I started going back to my 
hard-edge; that was before '62. It's something that you 
have to do. At that time, there's no control. All you 
know is that you have to do something that although you 



287 



don't like it, but you do it. It's almost a kind of getting 
rid of a lot of bad thinking. They were very loose, very 
emotional paintings, and stuff like that, but I had to do 
that. I think I just wanted to get rid of something. And 
then, all of a sudden I just, boom, went back to what I 
was before and where I am today, the very disciplined 
structure, as you call it, the architectonic approach. 
WESCHLER: Is that, for example, these paintings here? 
ENGEL: Yes. I think at that time I took off for Europe 
and Rome, and there it was again, you see, the city, the 
big city. I think if I have maybe a thing here, I think 
in California I was getting in a sense too California-like. 
WESCHLER: What does that mean? 

ENGEL: That means that the vegetation, the green — You 
know, we had no high-rises, no Century City. That maybe 
had some influence; that's why I went on that terrain. 
But the minute I dropped into Rome, and I was in the city, 
then to Paris, then the right feeling came back. Maybe 
it's a clue also, because the stuff was very landscapish 
at that time. I think I have some slides someplace, but 
I don't have any actual paintings. But the minute I hit 
Rome and I saw the buildings, then I knew where I had to 
go. And then of course Paris. And then of course spending 
more time in New York. I felt that I am now what I should 
be, you know? This idea of what you should be is sometimes 



288 



very difficult to explain. But you have sometimes no 
choice. But again, in the city, you're back into civili- 
zation, because the only place that anything ever happens 
or comes to a lot of consequence is always in a city. It 
never really happens in the suburbs. The beginning is 
always in the city, the important events. Then later on, 
when artists are well-fed and comfortable, then they go 
to the South of France. They still work, but that's 
another texture. 

WESCHLER: Given your need to be in cities and so forth, 
why do you live in Los Angeles, which is the least city 
like of cities. 

ENGEL: Well, it's the least citylike. Because I think 
eventually you get accustomed to the climate. It's 
very comfortable, and it gives you physically — It's a 
good thing. Also because I always made my living, which is 
a very big factor, here. 
WESCHLER: In animation. 

ENGEL: In animation, yes. In animation, but in the 
thinking terrain of the film. Because if I lived in New 
York, I'm sure I would see every play, because I like that 
art world. But it was the film, the film texture was 
here. I was interested in film fairly early, so naturally 
you came here. And then, after a while, the climate and 
everything seduces you, hooks you, and you live here. 



289 



But every year I have been out of Los Angeles in either 
Paris, Rome, London, or New York, but always New York, 
every year I go back. 

WESCHLER: Do you get kind of your creative energy from 
those trips and then you bring it back here? Or do you 
now have an independent source of creativity here, too? 
ENGEL: No, I think I have an independent source, because 
eventually you must have that, it's got to come from inside. 
But going to those other places, it generates and helps it 
to grow and get healthy and well. I think that's a very 
important thing for an artist, whether you're a painter, 
whether you're a writer, or a musician, you must travel, 
you must travel. But New York has always been an incredible 
source of inspiration for me. Or any city. I only go to 
big cities when I'm in Europe; I just don't enjoy villages 
or other places. 

WESCHLER: One of the things I was going to say is that 
the Coaraze film, although it does take place in a small 
town, emphasized the citylike aspects of that town, the 
lines, the walls. 

ENGEL: The doorways. You see, there is your square--the 
windows, the steps — there are all your straight lines. So 
the visual structure that I've taken in there from my 
painting is in character. 
WESCHLER: That brings up the question of what the 



290 



relationship is between your painting, your lithography, 
and your animation. Do you find that you're working on 
essentially the same kinds of things? For instance, the 
period from any given year, are you working similar issues 
in both? Or do you reserve certain kinds of issues for 
your animation, and certain kinds of issues for your 
painting? 

ENGEL: Well, I do think that I have taken more from the 
painting world into the film that I've been doing, I 
would say, during the last twelve years, rather than the 
other way. Because actually when you work on a film, 
you're dealing with spaces, and infinite space. When 
you work on a canvas, then you're always locked into that 
size of that shape. Now, you're also locked into that 
screen, that box, but I can move to the right or to the 
left, I can move north and south. I can show you more 
space, and all of a sudden you discover that my right side 
is endless, and my left side is endless on the screen, 
you see? 

WESCHLER: Right. 

ENGEL: So that's a big difference. And also it has 
space around it, it has space in front of it, behind it. 
Whereas a canvas is just it. So I do think that maybe the 
inventions of my head go into the painting and then go into 
the film. But I can enlarge it. I can enlarge on this 



291 



character of the shape of form or size on the screen, 
you see, because I have an infinite canvas there. 
WESCHLER: Do you find that you first work images in 
painting that a year later begin to show up on the screen? 
Does it go that direction? 

ENGEL: Oh, yes. Often I have sketches, hundreds some- 
times, and eventually they make their presence felt or 
seen in abstract film. Because when we are talking 
animation, we have to realize that we're talking about 
painting in motion. But it's very seldom that I get much 
from that world into the painting world. I can take a 
lot more to the screen, because the screen is so new. It's 
only — what? — sixty, seventy years old. Whereas in the 
world of painting you're dealing with four or five hundred 
years. And also we're dealing with giants in the world 
of painting. Whereas in film we have no giants. It's 
empty, it's an empty canvas. 

WESCHLER: Recently your film things are beginning to show 
up on gallery walls, or at least on the walls here. You're 
showing me this idea that you have of taking some of the 
sketches from your animations-- 

ENGEL: I think what's happening is that the painters 
today who've discovered film all of a sudden are beginning 
to come to that idea, that they can take that onto a 
gallery wall. And they're doing it a lot in photography 



292 



also. There's ten photos — 

WESCHLER: A sequence of photos. 

ENGEL: And I think that's where the film has been a very 

large influence on the painters and definitely on the 

still photographers. Whereas I think that I would still 

prefer to go the other way, because the opportunity there 

is enormous, it's endless. Space is endless. 

WESCHLER: Well, looking ahead generally, to your next 

phase of activity, do you see yourself spending more time 

with animation or more time with painting? Or is it 

roughly the same? 

ENGEL: I think it's a question of energy, of how much 

you have left. Also sometimes you move from one to the 

other for relaxation. 

WESCHLER: How does that work? 

ENGEL: It works in such a way that if I work on several 

abstract films I can get very tired of the process, and 

going back into painting is much more relaxing. Also 

because I'm not involved with mechanics. I'm not involved 

with a lab. I'm not involved with the projector. I'm not 

involved of having a dubbing session. So in film you have 

all those other mechanical characteristics, so that going 

back to painting and drawing is very relaxing, because also 

the result is immediate. I don't have to wait three days 

to get it back from the lab; it's very important, and therefore 



293 



it's very relaxing. 

WESCHLER: That sounds particularly impressive in light 
of your work now towards the [1978 Los Angeles] Filmex 
retrospective, which has you so involved in working on 
film. You sound like you need relaxation. 
ENGEL: Yes. And people don't realize that when you 
finish drawing, then you have to go and have it shot, then 
you have to wait to have it come back. You have an 
incredible lot of mechanical process in film art and often 
you don't know where you're at. Because a lot of stuff 
came back from the labs recently all ruined, full of dirt, 
full of little snow drops, or it looks like snow. What 
do you do? You have to sometimes draw the whole damn 
thing over. So you have a lot of terrain where--how can 
I say?--you're on the edge, because you don't know. It 
can happen even when you have, a good dubbing session, and 
the music comes back, and something is wrong someplace. 
That's the magic of painting, that's why you want to go 
back to it. Because you see it in front of you, it's 
there and it's yours, it's totally yours. You don't have 
credit for photographer, you don't have credit for mixer, 
you don't have credit for anybody else. You just sign a 
painting and it belongs to you. It's very important to do 
that for me, because although the other work is mine, still 
there are a lot of other people that I have to rely on and 



294 



a lot of other people are involved. You want to get away 

from that, you really do. 

WESCHLER: What kind of painting imagery are you dealing 

with these days particularly? What are some of your most 

recent paintings like? 

ENGEL: Well, my very recent ones, like that one — 

WESCHLER: What's that called? 

ENGEL: Let's see, they were called Landscape, just Landscape , 

and that's the last one, the last terrain of painting. I 

had about two dozen, and then I had others that grew out 

of that. But then again, if I would start tomorrow, I 

would still hold onto this kind of structure, but it would 

not be that. 

WESCHLER: Can you describe the structure for people? 

ENGEL: Well, this is what people refer to as the grid. 

But again, the way I use the color there, it's really 

color fields. They are color fields, playing one against 

the other. 

WESCHLER: It's almost a harmonic effect. 

ENGEL: Yes, but see, that red still pops. It takes a 

position next to the other colors, but at the same time, 

all the other colors hold a position with that color. It's 

a very structured, what people refer to as a grid, although 

I never think of it in that way. At the same time, there's 

a touch of film in there, because if you move, you can move 



295 



from one shape to another, and there's a continuity there 
also. So today that aspect of thinking begins to creep 
into paintings of mine and at the same time it still holds 
onto the city character, the straight line. Some people 
might read windows in that, you know. But that's their 
problem. I never work with that really, in mind. But 
what was important to me is the color relations, they're 
very subtle and it's one note. Not quite — 
WESCHLER: Like the Tamarind piece, the Red Poppies? 
ENGEL: Yes, yeah. 

WESCHLER: Well, this has been very exciting. Are there 
any other notions on painting that you would want to talk 
about before we close? 

ENGEL: Well, I think at the moment it's very complicated, 
because this idea of going back to magic realism and stuff 
like that that's going on, I think that's something that 
will never really work. You can't go back. There's no 
way that you can go back. Art is like a river, you know, 
you put your foot in it, take it out, and you put it back, 
and the water is not the same. It's very much like that. 
You can't. And it's sad, for me it's very sad to see 
these people trying to do that. You can't. And it's 
pretty bad, it's pretty bad stuff. So I just have to see 
if I can really get hold of something which is tomorrow, 
which is things in motion, and still have something of that 



296 



in the world of painting without all the futurists, 
without doing Nude Descending [A Staircase] . But that's 
also interesting, because I think Duchamp, when he painted 
Nude Descending , I don't think he was aware but I think he 
was already doing something which dealt with space in time. 
Because for that thing to come down, that was time and that 
was in space. I don't think that people were aware, but 
he was doing that. 

WESCHLER: He was anticipating animation. 

ENGEL: Yes! He was anticipating almost the film. Because 
if I take a group of drawings of mine and put it in the 
light box as I function as the animator, I would get that. 
In fact, if that existed in his time as accurately as it 
exists today, I doubt very much if he would have done that. 
But it's interesting to go back to Duchamp 's Nude Descending , 
which is pure animation, that somebody was doing that, but 
again not being aware. You just do it, you see. Just 
like I came on these ideas that it must be a drawing that 
doesn't relate to anything that you look at. I had no 
preconceived intellectual thinking there. And yet he was 
doing that. As you say, he was prophesying possibilities 
of that. But at that time he was not aware that it's 
possible. So somewhere there-- See, I'm going back there 
to see what's there that relates to today because of the 
motion of film and to see where I can tie the two together. 



297 



WESCHLER: Are you hopeful for painting now? 

ENGEL: Oh, I think so. 

WESCHLER: You have despair for magic realism and so forth, 

but do you generally feel-- 

ENGEL: No, I think magic realism is here, but it's a kind 

of a — Maybe the galleries are frantic and they have to 

do something. But you can't do that, because so many of 

those just look like retouched photos. There's nothing 

wrong with retouched photos, but it's that. There's no 

invention. 

WESCHLER: But you think there's room for a young painter 

starting out today to find a voice that isn't — Some 

people say that all possibilities have been used up, that 

there's no more room for somebody to start out. You don't 

feel that way? 

ENGEL: No, I don't feel that way at all. I think possibilities 

are always there. It just depends. The right person will 

come. But I think it's there. Of course, it's a little 

more difficult than it would have been two hundred years 

ago. That's why maybe the film is so exciting for the 

painter, because he doesn't find any Picasso, there's no 

Matisses, no Braques, there's nothing. So that is why that 

terrain is so exciting. Whereas the painter has this 

incredible background, tradition. 

WESCHLER: The weight of history. 



298 



ENGEL: The weight of history, all that. And he bucks 
that; he looks at it. Whereas in a film, where I'm doing 
work, I'm working, there's nothing. I can set a whole 
new avenue or boulevard that's not walked on. But I still 
feel that the painting or the graphic art has its place. 
It's got to have its place, and it will continue. Maybe 
today is a time when we look things over in the world of 
painting, sort of settling down. Because we had this 
enormous upheaval with de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Gottlieb, 
Rothko. Maybe there's a kind of a simmering now. But no 
magic realism: that will not do it! [laughter] 



299 



INDEX 



Adains, Clinton, 217, 222 
Alley, Alvin, 60, 87 
Albers, Josef, 72, 234 
Antreasian, Garo, 217, 222 
Arizona (magazine), 5 
Arnstrong, John, 180-81 
Arts et Me tiers Graphigues , 
3'2 ' 

Babbit, Art, 20 
Bakshi, Ralph, 187-88 
Ballet Russe de Monte 

Carlo, 11-12, 18-19 
Bamb i . See Disney, Walt, 

Studios--f ilms 

produced by 
Bass, Saul, 34 
Bauhaus school, 60 
Bay, Hillary, 252 
Bazilon, Irving, 193, 196 
Baziotes, William, 265 
Bechtold, Elizabeth, 187 
Beckett, Adam, 102, 168, 

173-75, 177-78 
Belson, Jordan, 144 
Benjamin, Karl, 276-78 
Benkes, Brenda, 188 
Bergman, Ingmar, 130-31 
Berrocal, Miguel, 201-4, 

210 
Bill, Max, 208-10 
Blair, Lee, 39 
Blanchard, Rick, 180 
Blau, Herb, 89, 153, 154 
Blum, Irving, 270 
Bogatirev, Wikolaj, 115 
Borenstein, Joyce, 179-80, 

187 
Borowczyk, Walerian, 44 
Bradbury, Ray, 215-16 
Breer, Robert, 144 
Brice, William, 53-54, 

94-95 
Burchfield, Charles, 72 



California Institute of the 
Arts, 79-92, 101-4, 
149-62, 163-90 
-history of, 89-92, 153- 

56 
-students at, 102, 157- 
62, 163-90 
Cannon, Robert, 36-37, 76- 

78 
Chaplin, Charles, 38, 241 
Chorus Line , 2 4 4-45 
Cirrus Editions, 229, 233- 

34 
Citizen Kane, 238 



Codrick, Thomas, 22, 25 
Comsky, Cynthia, 208 
Comsky Gallery, 208-9 
Corrigan, Robert, 90, 153- 

54 
Cremean, Robert, 207, 234 
Cunningham, Merce, 88, 113, 

126, 152 

David, Tisa, 189 
Davis, Stuart, 72 
Delaunay, Sonia, 176 
Demeier, Paul, 180 
Dickson, Anita, Academy of 

Theater, 28 
Diebenkorn, Richard, 266 
Dike, Phil, 21, 39, 48 
Disney, Walt, 22-23, 26-27, 
28-29, 37-38, 44, 51 
Disney, V'Jalt, Studios, 16- 
27, 34-44, 47-53, 
67-68, 73, 75-76, 
138-40, 143-47. See 
also Fischinger, 
Oskar ; Lebrun, Rico 
-approach to animation, 
30, 36-43, 47-49, 51, 
67-68, 73, 75-76, 139 
-films produced by: 
-Bambi , 22-25, 40, 42, 
44, 52-53 



300 



- Dumbo , 4 3 

-Fantasia , 16-25, 4 9-50 

-Peter Pa n, 4 2 

-Pinochio , 4 2-43 

-Toot, VJhistle, Plunk 
and Boom , 4 2 

-Sno w White , 42, 49, 5 2 
Dryer, Ivan, 224-25, 228 
Duchamp, Marcel, 88, 297 
Dufy, Raoul, 69-71 
Durst, Eric, 169, 175, 180 

Eggeling, Viking, 114 
Engel, Jules 

-abstraction, interest 
in, 7-11, 14-15, 21, 59, 
247-50, 252-56, 273-76 

-California Institute of 
the Arts, teaching 
position at, 79-88, 100- 
2, 149-90 

-color, use of, 18-21, 
22, 25-26, 50-51, 71-74, 
106, 117-18, 122-23, 
193, 200, 202, 295 

-dance influences on 
work, 9, 11-12, 15, 17, 
18, 84, 94, 107, 111-12, 
126, 238, 258, 261 

-Disney Studios, work at, 
17-23, 25-26, 34-35, 
47, 49-50, 73, 138-40, 
146 

-dramatic influences on 
work, 28, 205-6, 238-39, 
244-45, 255-56 

-films, animation, 18- 
26, 49-50, 71-74, 83- 
84, 92-93, 105-30, 
255-62 

-Accident , 108-11 
- Fragments , 119-21 
-Landscape , 114-17 
- Rumbl e, 12 2-26 
-Shapes and Gestures , 

111-13, 115-16 
-Swan , 126-27 
-Three Arctic Flowers , 
128-29 



-Train Landscape , 10 5-7, 

236 
-Wet Paint , 115 
-films, live-action, 130- 

36, 191-213 
- American Sculpture of 

the Sixties , 2 28 
-Coaraze , 130-35, 206 
- Ivory Knife, The , 191- 

200, 206 
- Light Motion , 207-8 
-Look of a Lithographer, 

The , 223-28 
-Max Bill , 208-10 
-New York 100 , 206-7 
-Torch and the Torso, 
The , 201-5, 206, 211 

-lithography, 213-18, 
219-37 
-Homage to David Smith , 

235 
-New York Facade , 2 3 5 
-Red Poppies , 28 5, 29 6 

-painterly influences on 
films, 5, 8, 59-60, 67- 
73, 80, 92-93, 191-92, 
198, 243, 256, 291-93, 
297 

-paintings, 5, 7, 58-59, 
60-61, 96, 105, 122, 
278-85, 287-90 
-Landscape , 29 5 
- New York Rhythm s, 283 
-Roman Windows, The , 28 2 

-sculpture, 65-67 

-UPA, work at, 30, 31- 

37, 56, 67-77 
Experimental Animation (by 

Robert Russett and 
Cecile Starr) , 162 

Falkenstein, Claire, 207 
Fantasi a . See Disney, 

VJalt, Studios--f ilms 
produced by 
Feitelson, Lorser, 276-79 
Filmmaking 

-commercial pressures and 
restrictions, 38-39, 44, 



restrictions, 38-3: 
67. 132-35, 146-48 



301 



-comparisons v>?ith other 
graphic arts, 41, 63-65, 
75, 87, 92-93, 114, 135, 
197, 201, 206, 236-41, 
243, 258-62, 279, 289-93 
-comparisons with 
performing arts, 113-14, 
197, 205-6, 244-45 
-conflict between art and 
business, 15-22, 28-29, 
38-43, 49, 51, 132, 135, 
138, 146, 279 
-future trends in, 63-65, 
84-86, 94-100, 128, 243- 
44, 293 
-technical innovations, 
34-35, 83, 144, 149 
Fischinger, Elfriede, 148 
Fischinger, Oskar, 44, 48, 
58, 138-46, 148, 
242, 253, 277 
Fitzpatrick, Robert, 182 
Fontana, Lucio, 121 
Ford Foundation, 219 

Garbutt, Bernard, 24 
Gemini, Graphic Editions 

Ltd., 229-34 
Gerald McBoing Boing . See 

United Productions 

of America (UPA) 
Goldman, Steve, 112 
Graham, Martha, 60, 126, 

152 
Griffith, D.W., 27, 29 
Grossman, Clara, 56, 142-43 

Hannah, Jack, 151 
Hofmann, Hans, 72 
Holland, Steve, 181 
Hopper, Edward, 7 2 
Horak, Bohuslav, 216 
Hubley, John, 30-37, 47, 

67, 189 
Hultberg, John, 206 
Hurtz, Bill, 30, 32, 36, 67 

Jackson, Martha, 191, 194- 
95, 199, 206 



Jackson, Martha, Gallery, 

191 
Jenkins, Paul, 191-99, 204 
Jepson, Herbert, 54 
Jepson Art Institute, 54 
Johns, Jasper, 229-33, 270 
Julian, Paul, 56 

Kaftan, Niki, 164-65, 180, 

187 
Kahn, Frederick, 277 
Kandinsky, Wassilly, 14-15, 

18, 22, 31, 67, 249, 

251-52, 273, 276 
Kantor, Josephine, 266 
Kantor, Paul, 262-67 
Kelly, Ellsworth, 58, 234 
Kepes, Gyorgy, 60 
Kimball, Ward, 155 
Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig, 264 
Kirkland, Mark, 180 
Kirkwood, Jane, 81, 187 
Klee, Paul, 18, 67, 72, 251 
Kline, Franz, 122, 286 
Klynn, Herb, 30, 32-37, 56, 

71, 77, 142 
Kosa, Emil, Jr . , 39 
Kubrick, Stanley, 282 
Kuh, Katherine, 279 
Kupka, Frantisek, 249, 251, 

273 
Kuri, Yoji, 171 

Landau, Felix, 269 

Landau, Felix, Gallery, 56, 
269 

Langsner, Jules, 278 

Leaf, Caroline, 187 

Lebrun, Rico, 23-24, 52-55 

Leger, Fernand, 67, 72, 176 

Lenica, Jan, 44 

Levine, Stan, 106, 117 

Levy, Don, 101 

LoRiva, Rudy, 30 

Los Angeles--art galleries 
and museums, 45-46, 
53-56, 142-43, 207- 
9, 262-71, 276-78. 
See also Comsky 



302 



Gallery; Grossman, 
Clara; Kantor, Paul; 
Landau, Felix, 
Gallery; Los Angeles 
County Museum of 
Art- Robles, Esther, 
Gallery; Sotheby, 
Parke, Bernet; 
Wurdemann, Helen, 
Gallery 
-role in promoting Los 
Angeles as an art 
center, 45-46, 55-56, 
142-43, 207, 262-70, 
276-77 

Los Angeles--art schools, 
54, 56, 79-92, 101- 
4, 149-60, 162-90. 
See also California 
Institute of the 
Arts; Jepson Art 
Institute; Otis Art 
Institute 

Los Angeles--as environment 
for artists, 45-47, 
54-56, 142-46, 175- 
77, 219-21, 270-72, 
277-80. See also 
Los Angeles — art 
galleries and 
museums; Los 
Angeles--art schools 
-V. New York, 46-47, 54, 
175-76, 221, 267, 270-72 

Los Angeles County Museum 
of Art, 276-77 

Lucas, George, 174 

Lund, William, 185 

Lustig, Alvin, 33 

MacKendrick, Alexander, 90, 

101, 154 
Malkiewicz, Kris, 101 
Matisse, Henri, 72 
Mcintosh, Robert, 56 
McLaren, Norman, 44, 83, 

143 
McLaughlin, John, 276-78 
Meier, Jody, 183 



Milant, Jean, 229, 233-34 
Milcall, Milt, 155 
Miller, Barse, 21, 39 
Mintz, Charles, Studio, 4- 

6, 11, 14-17 
Mister Magoo . See United 

Productions of 

America (UPA) 
Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo, 60 
Moritz, VJilliam, 148-49 
Muybridge, Eadweard, 111 

Nauman, Bruce, 81 
Nevelson, Louise, 226-27 
Nielsen, Kai, 25 
Nin, Anais, 89, 154 
Nureyev, Rudolph, 284 

Oldenburg, Claes, 230, 233 
O'Neill, Pat, 102, 208 
Otis Art Institute, 56 

Palmer, Herb, 46 
Pavlova, Anna, 126 
Perls, Frank, 45-46, 53 
Picabia, Francis, 176 
Pies, Dennis, 81, 107, 162, 

168-69, 172-73, 175, 

179 
Pollock, Jackson, 181, 286 



Rauschenb 

30 

Ray, Man, 

Reinhardt 

Richter , 

Roach, Ha 

Un 

Fo 

un 

Robles, E 

Robles, E 

20 

27 

Rose, Kat 

17 

18 

Ryderman, 



erg, Robert, 229- 
, 232-33 

176 
, Ad, 58, 123 
Hans, 114 
1, Studios. See 
ited States Air 
rce--animation 
it 

sther, 262, 268-69 
sther, Gallery, 

6, 261, 268-69, 
8 

hy, 150, 168-69, 
1-72, 175, 179, 

7, 189 
William, 155 



303 



Sal, Darla, 183-84 
Sanders, Terry, 101 
Scheyer, Galka, 141 
Seldis, Henry, 220 
Shawn, Ted, 18 
Sheeler, Charles, 35 
Sheets, Millard, 21, 39 
Shoemaker, David, 122 
Sotheby, Parke, Bernet, 
Soulages, Pierre, 286 
Spire, VJilla, 30 
Stamos, Theodore, 265 
Star Wars , 173 
Stella, Frank, 229-30, 

270 
Stokowski, Leopold, 48 
Stone, Carl, 109 
Strobel, Ken, 4-5 
Stutting, Barbara, 81 



265 



233, 



Van Huhn, Stephan, 234 
Vigo (Jean), Prix, 130-31 

Warshaw, Howard, 53-54 
VJayne, June, 203, 213-33. 

See also Tana rind 

Lithography Workshop 
Welles, Orson, 144 
VJest Coast watercolor ists, 

21, 25, 39, 54 
VJhitney Museum of American 

Art, 102 
Wright, Norm, 18 
Wurdemann, Helen, Gallery, 

56 
Wyle, Edith, 53 

Yunkers, Adja, 217 



Tamarind Lithography 

Workshop, 213-31, 
285-86 

Tati, Jacques, 10, 77, 254 

Tharp, Twyla, 60, 88 

Thomas, Frank, 155 

Thurber, James, 74 

Tyler, Ken, 228-33 

United Productions of 

America (UPA), 30- 
37, 42-43, 56, 67- 
78 . See also 
Cannon, Robert; 
Hubley, John; Hurtz, 
Bill; Klynn, Herb 
-Frankie and Johnny , 74 
-Fudgets Budget , 3 7 
-Gerald McBoing Boing , 

67-68 
-Jaywalker , 3 7, 74 
- Mister Magoo , 3 3, 74 
-Unicorn in the Garden, 
The , 7 4 
United States Air Force — 
animation unit, 30- 
33 



304 



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